Airbus Group's all-electric, all-composite training aircraft took its first public flight last month during the company's E-Aircraft Day in Bordeaux, France. The experimental aircraft was designed and built as a technology demonstrator for small planes used to train pilots.
The two-seater E-Fan has zero carbon dioxide emissions during flight and is much quieter than non-electric aircraft. It was specifically built from the ground up to be an all-electric craft, and to be manufactured and sold as a commercially viable plane. It's flight endurance is one hour for pilot training, and half an hour for aerobatics. You can watch a short video of the flight here, including some cool shots taken from inside the cabin. Although Airbus is calling this the plane's first successful public flight, the aircraft previously flew in March 2014, and an earlier version was demonstrated at the 2013 Paris Air Show.
Click on the all-electric E-Fan training aircraft below to start the slideshow.
The all-electric E-Fan training aircraft has zero carbon dioxide emissions in flight. It is expected to bring a significant reduction in noise around airfields. This will help improve relations between local residents and flight schools, and improve the long-term prospects of training future professional pilots.
(Source: Artem Tchaikovski)
The E-Fan was developed to support the European Commission's Flightpath 2050 roadmap. This calls for a 75% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft by 2050, as well as a 65% reduction in noise levels. Work on the E-Fan began during the Paris 2011 Air Show, and developed out of work by Airbus Group Innovations with partner Aero Composite Saintonge on the Cri-Cri, the first all-electric four-engine aerobatic plane, according to an E-Fan brochure you can download on this page under the "Key Documents" heading. Because of its electrical propulsion, the E-Fan has very little vibration, its performance isn't reduced in hot weather or at high altitudes, and there's no propeller torque, so the flight is exceptionally smooth.
The plane weighs 500 kg empty, its wingspan is 9.5m, and its length is 6.67m. Two electric motors with a combined power of 60 kw form the plane's propulsion system. They are located close to the aircraft's center line, making the plane easier than others to control. Each motor drives a ducted variable-pitch fan. The ducts increase static thrust and reduce noise. Motors are powered by a set of 250V lithium-ion polymer batteries that are vented and passively cooled. The aircraft integrates an electrical energy management system called e-FADEC to simplify pilot monitoring tasks, while a telemetry system records and transmits propulsion, battery, and engine conditions to a ground station.
Airbus Group (formerly EADS) has conducted hybrid and electrical propulsion systems research for many years. Previous results have included hybrid concept studies for a full-scale helicopter; demonstration flights of a hybrid electric motor glider, for which Airbus Group Innovations developed the battery system; flight tests of a short-range miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with an advanced fuel cell; and integration of a piston diesel engine into the TANAN UAV.
Airbus Group says it plans to develop the E-Fan aircraft further and to manufacture and sell two versions using the company's wholly owned subsidiary VoltAir. The two-seater E-Fan 2.0 will also be a fully electric training aircraft powered only by batteries. A four-seater version, the E-Fan 4.0, will be a plane designed for general aviation as well as training. In addition to its electric propulsion system, the 4.0's fuselage will also contain a combustion engine to provide extended range. A production facility will be built near the Bordeaux Merignac Airport that will also include a pilot training facility.
bobjengr, I didn't either. It's worth keeping in mind that this part of the recently renamed Airbus Group (formerly EADS), Airbus Group Innovations, is the former EADS Innovations, the same group that's been doing 3D printed metal parts for aerospace applications, which we've covered before, as well as lots of other cool R&D. Thanks for your input as a pilot. The planned hybrid four-seater will extend range, although we don't know by how much.
Ann--excellent post. I did NOT see this one coming and had no idea Airbus was working on an all-electric. I wonder if flying this airplane would require a multi-engine certificate? I have a single engine pilots' license but no multi. I can tell you from my "student" days that going airborne for much longer than an hour was not advised so this plane just might be a great solution for touch and goes. Cross-country would be out of the question and a "round-robin" would really be a stretch. In the "dark ages", my instructor required a round-robin with three landings and one refueling. My experience lasted about two hours with each leg being around 150 miles. Not too sure this all-electric would fit the bill but it would be great for local work in the pattern. Again--great post. Very informative.
Pubudu, although this plane does not use solar energy, the 100% Solar Impulse plane flies whether it's cloudy or not, day and night because of its battery storage/recharge system. We wrote about it here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=272910
shehan, this plane does not use solar energy for propulsion. As the article states, it uses electric motors. The design of a solar-powered plane would be very different. The point of this plane isn't only to fly on all-electric power; it's to use cleaner, lighter technology in a craft designed to train pilots. As we saw with the 100% solar plane Solar Impulse 1 & 2, using all or mostly solar cells really changes aircraft design.
Solar is always a good alternative for charging batteries. It will never pay for itself, as the energy used in making the cells, building the charging system, etc. isn't such a hood deal, but that isn't the point. In an emergency or hard times or trying to look like you are doing something to "save" the environment, solar is nice. Maybe some day the costs will be low enough to actually be practical! But not today. Today politics make solar practical!
I saw a Youtube video the other day about a simple Texas fellow's solar/wind setup. His was practical because it was to be used after the EMP we are being set up for. All of his silicon devices had been set up, tested, then taken down and stored in a Faraday cage. Yes, the cost would never be justified or practical, but his purpose redefined cost-effective.
Oh great! Now I've opened another bucket of worms! I hope the fishing Is good today...
Not exactly. There are aviation precedents within the Airbus family, and what they've done with this is cobble together novelty by combining previous experience to come up with the design featured.
The twin ducted fan arrangement is a clever way of providing novice pilots with a One Engine Inoperative situation where the offset thrust line from the other causes the pilot to input corrective action fairly simulating what actually happens in multi engined aircraft.
So, there's a lot of innovation but also a lot of history making the design job easier.
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