Airbus has revealed plans to manufacture and sell two-seat training aircraft and four-seat club aircraft, both powered by electric motors. This follows a series of successful flights for the E-Fan technology demonstrator which has flown 24 flights and a total of 8 hours.
The E-Fan 2.0, pictured above, is a two-seat aircraft for entry-level pilot training, while the four-seat E-Fan 4.0, below, is for full pilot licensing and the general aviation market. They are based on concepts developed by Bruno Saint-Jalmes, the Airbus Group’s Head of Creative Design and Concepts, in collaboration with DAHER-SOCATA, a French manufacturer of turboprop-powered aircraft.
Compared with the tandem-seat E-Fan demonstrator, the E-Fan 2.0 will be configured with side-by-side seating. This is better for pilot training with an instructor and student. It will also be equipped with fixed tricycle landing gear. E-Fan 2.0 will be all-electric using battery packs to drive two electric motors with ducted fan propellers. The four-seat E-Fan 4.0 will include a ‘range extender’ combustion engine to recharge the batteries for longer-duration flights.
As well as being less expensive to operate than normal combustion engine aircraft, the E-Fan light aircraft will be much quieter which should help flight schools be better neighbours.
The E-Fan aircraft will be designed to be compatible with flight training and aero club requirements, such as hangar parking space and flight endurance. With electrical propulsion, there is no reduction of performance at altitude and in hot weather, no propeller torque effects and no vibration, providing a very smooth flight. The E-Fan also features a airframe parachute rescue system deployed by a rocket.
Final assembly of the E-Fan aircraft will be located at an all-new assembly line at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. Airbus Group and its partners will finalise production plans for the E-Fan 2.0 this summer with entry-into-service targeted for late 2017. This will make it the first all-electric production aircraft in the world certified to international standards by civil airworthiness authorities.
Airbus Electric E-Fan E-Roadmap
The two light aircraft are milestones in the electric aviation ‘E-Roadmap’ put together by Airbus Group Innovations. As well as signing a partnership agreement for the production of E-Fan 2.0 and E-Fan 4.0, Airbus has will also create an E-Aircraft System House at Ottobrunn, Germany to validate ‘e’ technologies.
Among the concepts to be pursued at the E-Aircraft System House is E-Thrust, under evaluation by Airbus Group Innovations with Rolls-Royce since 2012. This concept foresees an airliner powered by multiple electrical motors totally integrated in the airframe. An advanced gas turbine would provide power to the electrically-powered fans and for recharging of the energy storage.
Jean Botti, Airbus Group Chief Technology Officer, says the company is making a long-term commitment to developing all-electric and electric/hybrid aircraft. Eventually, the technology may be applied to Airbus Helicopters as well as a potential future 90-passenger-category regional airliner.