It appears the future is upon us. Just as Cessna announced their SkyCourier, there was another announcement, but of a very different kind. Airbus, Siemens and Rolls Royce have collaborated on a project dubbed the E-Fan X, which intends to put a hybrid passenger aircraft in the sky by the year 2020.
The three companies are working on converting a BAe 146 into a hybrid aircraft, replacing first one and then two of its engines with electric units. These electric engines will be powered by an onboard generator, generating 2 megawatts for each electric engine.
The objective is obviously to reduce environmental impact and significantly reduce fuel burn – and cost. It will also make for a quieter, more comfortable passenger travel experience.
What is significant at this point is the addition of Rolls Royce to the Airbus-Siemens partnership. It appears to be a move aimed at getting ahead of the curve on electric aircraft technology, which many believe will define the future of short haul travel. “It is a matter of when, and not if, a short-haul electric plane will fly,” said Carolyn McCall, easyJet ex-CEO.
A number of companies are betting their futures on electric air travel. Amongst them are Wright Electric, which have operated a two seater prototype but hopes to develop a single aisle, 120-passenger aircraft. Another company, Zunum Aero, is working on a small hybrid private jet. Zunum Aero is backed by Boeing and says the aircraft will be ready by 2022.