When the first full hybrid electric hatchback was launched in 1997, there were more than a few smirks from the rest of the automobile industry.
In June 2013, worldwide sales of the car passed the 3 million mark.
The competition stopped laughing a long time ago.
The electrically powered E-Fan trainer has zero carbon dioxide emissions in flight and is significantly quieter than a conventionally powered aircraft.
In the aerospace industry weight, performance parameters and payload are paramount. Consequently,
the debate on whether electric propulsion could become a serious alternative to fossil fuel
is intensifying every year.
EADS is currently involved in a number of technological programmes bundled together as
“E- Aircraft projects”. These include EADS Innovation Works E-Fan. Additionally EADS Innovation
Works, in co-operation with Airbus, is also leading the E-Thrust programme (in co-operation with
Rolls-Royce Plc.) and the E-Star 2 project in conjunction with Diamond Aircraft and Siemens.
In Europe there is a political dimension to the future of aviation set out by the European
Commission’s Roadmap report called “Flight path 2050 – Europe’s Vision for Aviation”.
The report sets targets of reducing aircraft C02 emissions by 75% along with reductions
in nitrous oxide (NOx) by 90% and noise levels by 65% compared to the year 2000.
Foreground: A scale model of the hybrid electric E-Thrust propulsion system concept was on display in the EADS Pavilion at the Paris Airshow 2013.
The two-seat E-Fan is particularly suited for short missions such as basic pilot training, glider towing and aerobatics, with a flight endurance of one hour for pilot training and 30 minutes for aerobatics.
The electrically powered E-Fan trainer has zero carbon dioxide emissions in flight and is significantly
quieter than a conventionally powered aircraft. Supported by the French Directorate General for Civil
Aviation (DGAC) as well as a number of regional government institutions in France, the E-Fan is a
highly innovative technology demonstrator. After the considerable success enjoyed by the world’s
first four-engined electric aerobatic plane, the Cri-Cri, the E-Fan trainer project was introduced
at the Paris Air Show in 2013.
Responsibility for the project was divided between EADS Innovation Works, which managed the
development of the electrical systems and Aerocomposites Saintonge (ACS) technical director
Didier Esteyne who actually designed the E-Fan. The decision to build the technology demonstrator
was made in October 2012 and after a very short and intense period of development and manufacture,
the aircraft was revealed at the Paris Air Show in June 2013.
E-Fan propulsion is provided by two electric motors with a combined power of 60 kiloWatt, each driving a ducted, variable pitch fan.
Just as BMW chose to create a completely new platform for its new i3 compact car rather than relying on a
conventional vehicle platform, the E-Fan is an entirely new concept in aircraft design. Like the i3, the
E-Fan was designed from the outset to be completely electrically powered. Innovations include a pyrotechnically
deployed parachute rescue system and the e-FADEC optimised electrical energy management system handling all
electrical features. Power comes from two electrical motors with a combined power of 60 kilowatts each driving
a variable pitch fan providing a static thrust of 1.5 kN which is another engineering first on an electrically
powered aircraft. The motors are in turn powered by a series of 250V lithium polymer batteries housed in the
inboard part of the wings parallel to the cockpit providing an endurance of between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
The batteries can be recharged in one hour.
“The introduction of the E-Fan electric aircraft represents another strategic step forward in EADS’ aviation
research. We are committed to exploring leading-edge technologies that will yield future benefits for our
civil and defence products, ” said Jean Botti, EADS Chief Technical Officer (CTO).
Furthermore according to Botti,“the E-Fan demonstrator is an ideal platform that could be eventually matured,
certified to and marketed as an aircraft for pilot training.”
Research engineer Emmanuel Joubert (right) is the E-Fan project leader at EADS Innovation Works.
The knowledge sharing required in such a technically innovative project required an equally innovative
approach to programme planning.
Apart from the major partner ACS, the French innovation institutes CRITT Matériaux Poitou-Charentes
(CRITT MPC) and ISAE-ENSMA, as well as the company C3 Technologies were responsible for the
construction and production of the wings. Furthermore, electrical engineering experts from Astrium
and Eurocopter supported testing the battery packs while the livery was designed by Airbus. Several
Airbus technicians based in Toulouse also helped to build the aircraft so that it was ready for the
E-FAN Technical data
|Max. take-off weight:
|Total engine power:
|Battery rated capacity:
||40 Ah per cell
4 Volt per cell
||45 min - 1 hour
The second project known as E-Thrust came into being in 2012 and is a collaboration between EADS Innovation
Works, Rolls Royce and the UK’s Cranfield University under the auspices of the Distributed Electrical
Aerospace Propulsion Project (DEAP). E-Thrust is focused on improving fuel economy and reducing exhaust
gas and noise emissions by employing distributed propulsion system architecture. This consists of six
electrically powered fans, distributed in clusters of three along the wingspan and housed with a common
intake duct. An advanced gas power unit provides the electrical power for the fans and for the re-charging
of the energy storage.
Sébastien Remy, Head of EADS Innovation Works, explains the benefits of DEAP, “The idea of distributed
propulsion offers the possibility to better optimize individual components such as the gas power unit,
which produces only electrical power, and the electrically driven fans, which produce thrust. This
optimises the overall propulsion system integration. The knock-on effect we expect thanks to the
improved integration of such a concept is to reduce the overall weight and the overall drag of
EADS Innovation Works
EADS Innovation works is name given to a corporate network of research centres working
within the EADS Group. More than 800 highly skilled staff ensure the long-term innovation
potential of EADS. However the need to address ever more complex issues requires a constant
stream of new talent. Head of IW Sébastien Remy states: “We offer a wide range of possibilities
to young engineers to develop their skills and capacities to innovate. The opportunities
within IW in terms of the range of disciplines are enormous”
Teams organised in global and transnational Technical Capabilities Centres. Their
- Composite technologies
- Metallic technologies and surface engineering
- Structures engineering, production processes and aeromechanics.
- Sensors, electronics and systems integration
- Systems engineering, information technology and applied mathematics
- Energy and Propulsion
- Disruptive Scenarios and Concepts Centre
The third member of this innovative triumvirate is the hybrid propulsion system fitted to the Diamond
Aircraft DA36 E-Star 2 motor glider shown at the Paris Air Show in 2011.This year an updated variant
with a lighter and more compact Siemens electric motor, resulting in an overall weight reduction of
100kg was shown at Le Bourget. Electricity is supplied by a small Wankel engine which drives a
generator and so functions solely as a power source. EADS IW prepared the wing-mounted battery packs.
One fact cannot be ignored. Fossil fuels are a finite resource. The aerospace industry is considering
a range of alternative propulsion technologies. Engineers such as Marc Maurel and Graham Dodds,
working for EADS Innovation Works with a number of equally visionary European partners are well on
the way to providing those alternatives. The hurdles are enormous, but think back to the events of
December 17th 1903 and the vision and persistence of Orville and Wilbur Wright.
You know how that story ended.