While the concept of electric or hybrid-electric propulsion has been tested on automobiles, the aviation industry is yet to unveil a game-changing hybrid-electric plane. But if the recent announcement by Rolls Royce, Siemens, and Airbus is anything to go by, the world might witness the first commercial hybrid-electric plane by 2030. The three corporate giants envision a plane with a sitting capacity of between 50 and 100 people.
Rolls Royce, Airbus, and Siemens are optimistic that they will launch a prototype of the revolutionary aircraft in the next two years. Rolls Royce, an engine manufacturer, will supply the joint venture, E-Fan X, with a gas powered turbine and a generator while Siemens will develop the electric propulsion system for the plane, and Airbus will put together the plane control systems over and above integrating all the systems to work in harmony.
E-Fan X is not the first project that Siemens and Airbus are working on together. Just last year, the two came along to develop CityAirbus, a flying taxi. So far, the project is on course, and a prototype for the CityAirbus was unveiled recently. Their experience working together is likely to be a plus for the current project.
The effort by Airbus and the two partners represents a fraction of other similar undertakings. Other projects such Eviation and RX1E-A, and companies including Zunum Aero have vowed to revolutionize the aviation industry by developing an alternative source of energy. However, E-Fan-X beats them all regarding the capacity of the intended plane. For example, China’s RXIE-1 aims two develop a two-seater plane while Zunum Aero is working on a plane with a sitting capacity of between 10 and 50 passengers.
Apparently, fully electric planes with a large passenger capacity are still a challenge. François Chopard affirms that firms are either developing larger hybrid-electric airplanes or smaller fully electric ones. Chopard is the CEO of Starbust Accelerator, a company with interests in aviation and aerospace funding.