here is no better place to assess the possibilities and limitations of tomorrow’s propulsion technologies than Europe’s largest facility dedicated to just that—the E-Aircraft Systems House. Here, Airbus engineers are leveraging the lessons learned from key electrification initiatives to offer world-class testing to a variety of alternative-propulsion projects across Airbus—and beyond.
The E-Aircraft Systems House is Europe's leading facility to test alternative-propulsion systems and alternative fuels.
In 2016, Airbus first opened the doors of its E-Aircraft Systems site. Back then, the building featured about 225 m2 of medium-voltage testing space. Three years later, a new 2,500-m2 facility —complete with two GenSet test beds, four propulsion unit test beds, two control rooms and a power-distribution hall—was added, thereby significantly expanding high-voltage testing capabilities.
Today, a flurry of activity is underway at E-Aircraft Systems. The team is hard at work, providing design and testing support in the following key areas:
At E-Aircraft Systems, we can offer world-class testing for multiple components and architectures related to electric-propulsion systems.
- Benjamin Struss, Airbus Head of E-Aircraft Systems
Testing activities at E-Aircraft Systems are carried out at two distinct facilities, depending on the level of voltage:
“Airbus is spearheading several alternative-propulsion projects across its business lines, from CityAirbus at Airbus Helicopters to ZEROe at Airbus,” explains Benjamin Struss, Airbus Head of E-Aircraft Systems. “So we have high demand to test various zero-emission technologies at our E-Aircraft Systems facilities.”
For example, in 2019 and early 2020, various aspects related to the E-Fan X’s hybrid-electric propulsion system architecture were designed, in close cooperation with partners, at E-Aircraft Systems. These aspects included the propulsion unit, and the transmission, energy storage, and power generation systems. Although E-Fan X has now come to a close, the lessons learned on hybrid-electric architecture integration and network installation rules for a 3,000-VDC (Volts Direct Current) unit have helped to foster the engineering know-how needed to better evaluate the performance of other alternative-propulsion projects.
Meanwhile, at the medium-voltage facility, the CityAirbus demonstrator’s electric-propulsion system has been undergoing testing since 2018. As a result, the team has developed a solid understanding of electric propulsion for rotorcraft as a result of testing the following components:
CityAirbus has conducted its first fully automatic flight.
The ZEROe concept aircraft feature three configurations (turbofan, turboprop and blended wing body) that are all powered by hybrid-hydrogen technology.
To date, all alternative-propulsion units and systems tested at E-Aircraft Systems have been attached to Airbus projects. But that will soon change.
Zeleros, the European start-up developing a scalable hyperloop system for ultra-fast city-to-city travel, recently confirmed that it will entrust E-Aircraft Systems to support the development of its vehicle propulsion system. The system is based on zero-emission and energy-efficient technology, including a fully electric powertrain.
“At E-Aircraft Systems, we can offer world-class testing for multiple components and architectures related to electric-propulsion systems,” Benjamin says. “This is evidenced by our hands-on experience with key Airbus electrification projects. We’re looking forward to applying our know-how in alternative propulsion to help companies like Zeleros accelerate their development timelines, while at the same time, paving the way towards a more sustainable mobility future.”