Hybrid commercial aircraft could take to the skies in 2020

Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens intend to have a 100-seat passenger aircraft with a hybrid-electric propulsion in the skies in 2020. Tests will be done to replace one of the four gas turbine engines with an electric motor.

Commercial aircraft with a hybrid-electric propulsion could be a reality in just a few years thanks to a new partnership between Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens.

The three companies are developing the E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator, and it will undergo comprehensive ground testing on a 100-seat BAe146 flying test bed. One of the four gas turbines will be replaced by a two megawatt electric motor, and steps will be taken to replace a second gas turbine with an electric motor once the system has proven successful.

The objective of the flight demonstrator is to prove that the technology is safe, efficient and cost-effective, said Paul Eremenko, CTO of Airbus. “We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”

The three partners believe that hybrid technology in the aviation sector is one possible way to meet the EU goals of reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent, nitrogen emissions by 90 per cent, and noise by 75 per cent by 2050.

“These cannot be achieved with the technologies existing today,” according to the joint statement.

Airbus’ E-Fan demonstrator made its first public flight in April 2014, and just over a year later it became the first all-electric aircraft to cross the English channel. Airbus and Siemens have been collaborating since April 2016 to electrify aviation.

Image credit: Copyright Airbus

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