Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Siemens announce plan for hybrid-electric aircraft

Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce announced a collaborative effort on Tuesday to develop a hybrid-electric airplane engine.

Siemens, Rolls-Royce and Airbus announced a joint effort on Tuesday to develop electric motors for short-haul aircraft. Image courtesy of Siemens AG
Siemens, Rolls-Royce and Airbus announced a joint effort on Tuesday to develop electric motors for short-haul aircraft. Image courtesy of Siemens AG

The three European aerospace companies said the goal of the project, called the E-Fan X, is to replace one of four gas turbine jet engines on a Bae 146 short-haul aircraft prototype with an electric motor by 2020. If successful, the companies would then try to replace a second engine.

Airbus will be responsible for the overall integration of parts made by Rolls-Royce and Siemens for the aircraft propulsion systems, the companies said. Siemens will build the two-megawatt motor and Rolls-Royce will construct the generator. A short-haul plane with four electric engines requires about 20 megawatts to operate safely, Airbus said.

The project is motivated by environmental goals of the European Commission calling for a 75 percent reduction in aircraft-generated carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The commission guidelines also call for a 90 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides and a 65 percent decline in noise pollution.

“These [benchmarks] cannot be achieved with the technologies existing today. Therefore, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are investing in and focusing research work in different technology areas including electrification. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen today as among the most promising technologies for addressing these challenges,” the companies said in a joint statement.

The companies announced their plans at London’s Royal Aeronautical Society.

By Ed Adamczyk