As the automobile industry continues to pave the way for greener alternatives to its reliance upon the joint pollutants of petrol and diesel engines, commercial aircraft manufacturers have been seemingly left behind in the dust, with no real drive towards offering an environmentally-friendly engine variant visible from public perspective.
This, however, is on the brink of revolutionary change, with the news that three of Europe largest engineering giants are set to jointly develop a demonstration version of a commercial aircraft fitted with electric ‘jets.’ This consortium will comprise Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens with the project’s working name entitled E-Fan X, and the engine is first planned to be mounted up the BAE Systems 146 aircraft, sometime in 2020. The technology itself is not altogether revolutionary, but is fundamental, none the less. Engineers will be keen to see how well or otherwise the plane will perform with its hybrid/electro-reactive power.
The European Union’s prospective plan, entitled Flightpath 2050: Vision for Aviation, leaves little doubt or choice for manufacturers and their investors: The reduction of dangerous carbon dioxide nitrous oxide emissions from commercial aircraft by 75% and 90%, respectively, as well as a reduction in noise by 65%.
The purpose of the three-strong consortium is to test the concept of hybrid air transport. At first, with E-Fan X, only one of the 146’s four gondola engines will have a 2-megawatt electromagnet from Siemens, powered by a generator based on the Rolls-Royce gas turbine engine, and with control system management assignments and their integration into the test aircraft being the task of Airbus.
Engineers are not shy to accept that they are unlikely to change the world overnight with this scheme, and that the project is little more than a grand experiment, but optimism still abounds that it may expose avenues in which greater steps towards making the world of civil aviation friendlier to the environment will be made, as well introducing a heightened level of reliability and profitability.