Airbus has introduced its all-electric experimental aircraft in a first public flight, paving way for low-emission and quieter aviation.
The experimental two-seater, named E-Fan, flown during a demonstration in Bordeaux, France, on Friday 25 April, features an all-composite construction and is fully powered by batteries. Airbus plans to develop also a larger version with four seats, powered by a hybrid propulsion technology capable of switching between the batteries and a combustion engine.
“The E-Fan project and Airbus Group’s commitment to the field of electric and hybrid research show our vision of future technological developments,” said Airbus Group Chief Technical Officer Jean Botti during the event. “It will not only lead to a further reduction in aircraft emissions and noise to support our environmental goals but will also lead to more economic and efficient aircraft technology in the long run. Our focus is to develop innovations that will help define how the aerospace industry of tomorrow will look like,” he said.
The 60kW two-seater flown in Bordeaux represents the first step towards developing a fully electric or hybrid passenger aircraft that could serve on European air-routes in the future.
In addition to emitting no CO2, electric aircraft is also considerably quieter – a feature that would certainly be welcome by people living in the vicinity of major airports.
However, to see electric aircraft serving on regional routes, the public would have to wait for at least 15 years.
The current E-Fan model is so far only suitable for short flights and could be used in pilot training, towing gliders or aerobatics. According to Botti, it would take up to 20 years to develop a regional electric plane capable of carrying up to 90 people.
Airbus is considering setting up a new plant in Bordeaux focused on development and manufacturing of electric aircraft.
The company’s efforts are in line with the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 programme, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions produced by European aircraft by 75 per cent by 2050. In addition to the carbon footprint, nitrous emissions should be cut by 90 per cent and noise by 65 per cent compared with the situation in the 2000s.