This is where we’re at in the race to electrification

In what could very well be the aircraft industry’s biggest electrification effort to date, Airbus, Siemens, and Roll-Royce are embarking on a partnership that could lead to the world’s first electric airplane. The project is called the “E-Fan X,” and it’s essentially a BAe 146 plane that’s being tested to run on proprietary electric motor technology.

Airbus, Siemens, and Rolls-Royce Team Up to Build Electric Planes
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It’s one thing to develop electrification technology to power a car. It’s another thing entirely to develop electric propulsion technology for a large commercial aircraft. This is next level stuff. It’s also complicated beyond our imaginations.

It’s interesting to note that both Airbus and Siemens have actually produced different versions of all-electric aircrafts. Airbus had the E-Fan, which was the first electric plane to successfully fly across the English Channel in 2014. For its part, Siemens’ Extra 330LE prototype electric aerobatic plane set a new top speed record for an electric plane when it hit 211 mph back in April 2017. Then there’s Rolls-Royce. We may know it in our line of work as the creator of some of the world’s most luxurious vehicles, but it’s also a powerhouse in the aviation industry with a reputation for developing some of the best jet engines in the world.

Siemens’ Extra 330LE prototype electric aerobatic plane set a new top speed record for an electric plane when it hit 211 mph back in April 2017

Knowing this makes it easy to understand why the three companies teamed up on a project as ambitious as this one. As part of the three-team collaboration, each company will focus on a specific aspect of the project. Siemens will take the lead in developing the two-megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit. It’ll also be responsible for developing the inverter, AC/DC converter, and power distribution system. For its part, Rolls-Royce will handle the development of the E-Fan X’s turbo-shaft engine, two-megawatt generator, and power electronics. As for Airbus, it’s going to be responsible for integrating the contributions of Siemens and Rolls-Royce. That’s on top of creating the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, and its integration with flight controls.

There’s no timetable yet on when the E-Fan X is going to take flight, but it is exciting to know that three of the most important companies in the world of aviation are pooling their resources together to turn something that was supposed to be impossible into reality. Here’s to hoping then that the project is successful.


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Read more Rolls Royce news.

Press release

Partnership launches E-Fan X hybrid-electric flight demonstrator
London, 28th November 2017 – Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens have formed a partnership which aims at developing a near-term flight demonstrator which will be a significant step forward in hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial aircraft.
The three companies together announced the groundbreaking collaboration, bringing together some of the world’s foremost experts in electrical and propulsion technologies, at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.
The E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator is anticipated to fly in 2020 following a comprehensive ground test campaign, provisionally on a BAe 146 flying testbed, with one of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines replaced by a two megawatt electric motor. Provisions will be made to replace a second gas turbine with an electric motor once system maturity has been proven.
“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future. The lessons we learned from a long history of electric flight demonstrators, starting with the Cri-Cri, including the e-Genius, E-Star, and culminating most recently with the E-Fan 1.2, as well as the fruits of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration with Siemens, will pave the way to a hybrid single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective,” said Paul Eremenko. “We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”
The E-Fan X demonstrator will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems, such as thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility issues. The objective is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid electric technology. The programme also aims at establishing the requirements for future certification of electrically powered aircraft while training a new generation of designers and engineers to bring hybrid-electric commercial aircraft one step closer to reality.
As part of the E-Fan X programme, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens will each contribute with their extensive experience and know-how in their respective fields of expertise:
Airbus will be responsible for overall integration as well as the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, and its integration with flight controls.
Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator, and power electronics. Along with Airbus, Rolls-Royce will also work on the fan adaptation to the existing nacelle and the Siemens electric motor.
Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system. This comes on top of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration between Airbus and Siemens, launched in 2016, which aims at development and maturation of various electric propulsion system components and their terrestrial demonstration across various power classes.
Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce, Chief Technology Officer, said: “The E-Fan X enables us to build on our wealth of electrical expertise to revolutionise flight and welcome in the third generation of aviation. This is an exciting time for us as this technological advancement will result in Rolls-Royce creating the world’s most powerful flying generator.
“Siemens has been driving innovation in core technology fields at full speed,” said Roland Busch, Chief Technology Officer of Siemens. “In April 2016 we opened a new chapter in electric-mobility with the collaboration with Airbus. Building up electric propulsion for aircraft, we are creating new perspectives for our company and also for our customers and society. With the E-Fan X partnership, we now take the next step to demonstrate the technology in the air.”
Among the top challenges for today’s aviation sector is to move towards a means of transport with improved environmental performance, that is more efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels. The partners are committed to meeting the EU technical environmental goals of the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation (reduction of CO2 by 75%, reduction of NOx by 90% and noise reduction by 65%). These cannot be achieved with the technologies existing today. Therefore, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are investing in and focusing research work in different technology areas including electrification. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen today as among the most promising technologies for addressing these challenges.
About Airbus
Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2016 it generated revenues of €67 billion and employed a workforce of around 134,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats and business aviation products. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.
About Siemens
Siemens AG (Berlin and Munich) is a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality for 170 years. The company is active around the globe, focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalization. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is a leading supplier of efficient power generation and power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry. The company is also a leading provider of medical imaging equipment – such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging systems – and a leader in laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. In fiscal 2017, which ended on September 30, 2017, Siemens generated revenue of €83.0 billion and net income of €6.2 billion. At the end of September 2017, the company had around 372,000 employees worldwide.
About Rolls-Royce Holdings plc
Rolls-Royce’s vision is to be the market-leader in high performance power systems where our engineering expertise, global reach and deep industry knowledge deliver outstanding customer relationships and solutions. We operate across five businesses: Civil Aerospace, Defence Aerospace, Marine, Nuclear and Power Systems.
Rolls-Royce has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces, 4,000 marine customers including 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.
We have three common themes across all our businesses:
Investing in and developing engineering excellence
Driving a manufacturing and supply chain transformation which will embed operational excellence in lean, lower-cost facilities and processes
Leveraging our installed base, product knowledge and engineering capabilities to provide customers with outstanding service through which we can capture aftermarket value long into the future.
Annual underlying revenue was £13.8 billion in 2016, around half of which came from the provision of aftermarket services. The firm and announced order book stood at £80 billion at the end of 2016.
In 2016, Rolls-Royce invested £1.3 billion on research and development. We also support a global network of 31 University Technology Centres, which position Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research.
Rolls-Royce employs almost 50,000 people in 50 countries. More than 16,500 of these are engineers.
The Group has a strong commitment to apprentice and graduate recruitment and to further developing employee skills. In 2016 we recruited 274 graduates and 327 apprentices through our worldwide training programmes.

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