Airbus tests electric aircraft

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Photo: Airbus Group

Airbus’s latest twin-engine aircraft has two motors, two seats and no fuel tanks. The European aerospace giant has joined the electric aircraft fray with its E-Fan prototype, which recently made its first public test flight.

Airbus says the E-Fan is a technology demonstrator of a fully electrically powered, all-composite general aviation training aircraft. With a full carbon fibre composite structure the sleek, lightweight design cruises at 85 kt and is powered by two electric motors, each run by four battery cells in each wing.

The bicycle-type retractable landing gear incorporates an electric motor for taxiing and initial take-off acceleration.

Despite current flight times limited to 45 minutes, Airbus is hoping to build on this significant step towards green energy. (Batteries under development allow 75 minutes flight, Airbus says.) Airbus plans to construct a series version of the E-Fan and planned to build it at Bordeaux, in France.

Airbus said its research efforts supported the environmental protection goals of the European Commission, as outlined in its ‘Flightpath 2050’ program. These goals include reductions in carbon dioxide  and  noise emissions. ‘Not only does this vision further reduce emissions and aircraft noise in a context of respect for the environment, but will also lead eventually to increasingly economical and efficient aeronautical technologies,’ says Airbus Group chief operating officer Jean Botti.

“Our ambition is to develop inventions that prefigure the aerospace industry of tomorrow,” he said.

Airbus’s examination of electric flight is part of a wider trend. In the May-June edition Flight Safety Australiareported on a German-made multi-rotor ‘Volocopter’.

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