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Airbus, Rolls Royce cancel electric jet aircraft project

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By Nick Flaherty




Airbus and Rolls Royce have cancelled their project to develop an engine for electric jet aircraft, with Airbus looking at hydrogen power instead.

The E-Fan X electric jet demonstrator was launched in 2017 with Siemens to develop a 2MW electric motor. A BAe 146 test aircraft with one of the four jet engines replaced by the new motor was set to fly later this year.

“From our side, this has involved creating a hybrid-electric power generation system at a scale never previously seen in our industry, comprised of an embedded AE2100 gas turbine driving a 2.5MW generator and 3000V power electronics and an electric propulsion unit,” said  Paul Stein, CTO of Rolls-Royce.

Airbus says the E-Fan X project successfully achieved its three main initial goals in testing the possibilities and limitations of a serial hybrid-electric propulsion system. This lays a foundation for the future industry-wide adoption and regulatory acceptance of alternative-propulsion commercial aircraft, it says.

“Hybrid architectures, high-voltage systems and batteries are indispensable technology bricks for several other demonstrator projects across our wider research and technology (R&T) portfolio to diversify power sources. We will continue to develop and mature them at our E-Aircraft System Test House,” said Grazia Vittadini, Airbus Chief Technology Officer

“This opened up inquiry into new technology pathways, hydrogen being one of them,” she said.  “With our research partnerships on hybrid-electric and hydrogen airport infrastructure and operations, we will have laid a foundation for the future industry-wide adoption and regulatory acceptance of alternative-propulsion commercial aircraft.” 

This follows the completion of the sale of Siemens eAircraft electric aircraft power unit to Rolls Royce in December.

“Our eAircraft team, under the leadership of Frank Anton, has made aviation history several times in the past ten years and is a pioneer in electric and hybrid-electric systems for aircraft,” said Roland Busch, CTO and COO of Siemens. “With Rolls-Royce, we’ve found a perfect home for this business and have placed its expertise in the hands of one of Airbus’ close partners. We will continue to cooperate with Rolls-Royce,” he said.

www.airbus.com

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