Derby’s Rolls-Royce has teamed up with two other major aerospace companies to develop environmentally-friendly hybrid electric engine technology for aircraft.
The engineering giant has entered into a partnership with aircraft manufacturer Airbus and technology firm Siemens to come up with an aircraft that can run on a combination of fuel and electricity.
According to the partnership, the aim is to have the aircraft, called the E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator, ready for its first flight in 2020.
The demonstrator would take a BAe 146 aircraft that would be fitted with three conventional jet engines and one electric engine.
The three companies have decided to work together as the aviation industry strives to develop engine technology that is more efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels.
The European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation has set a number of tough environmental goals for the sector.
They include reducing the carbon emissions of aircraft by 60%, cutting nitrogen oxide levels by 90% and reducing noise levels by 75%.
According to Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Siemens, these targets cannot by achieved with technologies existing today. They believe that electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are their best hope.
As well as investing tens of millions of pounds, each company is set to play their own part in the E-Fan X project.
The demonstrator will be fitted with three jet engines and one electric engine
Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and a power electronic control unit.
Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator, and power electronics.
Airbus will be responsible for overall integration of the technology. It will also work with Rolls-Royce on adapting the fan technology.
The collaboration, which was announced at the Royal Aeronautical Society, in London, earlier today, will bring together experts in electrical and propulsion technologies from all three companies.
Rolls-Royce currently designs, develops and manufactures Trent jet engines in Derby
Paul Stein, chief technology officer at Rolls-Royce, said: “The E-Fan X enables us to build on our wealth of electrical expertise to revolutionise flight and welcome in the third generation of aviation.
“This is an exciting time for us as this technological advancement will result in Rolls-Royce creating the world’s most powerful flying generator.”
Roland Busch, chief technology officer at Siemens, said: “Building up electric propulsion for aircraft, we are creating new perspectives for our company and also for our customers and society.
“With the E-Fan X partnership, we now take the next step to demonstrate the technology in the air.”
Paul Eremenko, chief technology officer at Airbus, said: “The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future.
“We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”
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Hybrid engines for small, light aircraft currently exist. Some of these use fuel, an electric motor and battery technology all at the same time for take-off and climbing. Then while cruising in the air, the battery recharges.
However, such engines are for light aircraft. The aim of the E-Fan X partnership is to create hybrid propulsion powerful enough to be used on single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective.
Today, hybrid technology is widely used in the rail and automotive sectors. For example, Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire makes the Auris Hybrid, which runs on a combination of petrol and electricity.
Source: Derby Telegraph