Electric aircraft may be taking to the skies sooner than you think. EADS (the parent company of Airbus) and various partners have several “E-aircraft” research projects underway, and have already flown a couple of electrified airplanes.
In 2010, EADS Innovation Works (IW) and Aero Composites Saintonge (ACS) flew a single-seat, 375 lb plane called the Cri-Cri, which used four electric motors in place of its two 9 hp piston engines. By the end of this year, IW and ACS plan to fly the E-Fan, a purpose-designed two-seater with electric-powered ducted propellers.
In 2011, EADS teamed with Siemens and Diamond Aircraft to fly the DA36 E-Star, an HK36 Super Dimona motor glider modified to test a hybrid-electric drive system. In 2012, the team flew the improved E-Star 2, which has a serial-hybrid drivetrain featuring an electric motor from Siemens, a generator driven by a small Wankel from Austro Engine, and custom-built battery packs in the wings. The motor weighs 13 kg including gearbox and control electronics, and runs off the generator, producing a continuous 65 kw. This is boosted by the batteries to 80 kw for takeoff and climb. The combustion engine runs at a constant 30 kw to generate power and recharge the batteries. Siemens believes series hybrid power will soon make its way into small aircraft, and is scalable to commercial aircraft with 50-100 seats, reducing emissions 25%.
EADS and Siemens have partnered with the Technical University of Munich to establish the PowerLab project, which is dedicated to developing generators and motors in the 300-600 kw class. “This is a good level at which to enter real aviation,” says project head Peter Jankers. “We could easily get to megawatt class.”
PowerLab is targeting development of electric generators and motors with power densities of 10 kw per kilogram – twice that of the motor in the E-Star 2. Such a density would make a megawatt-class power system “quite reasonable to fly, and is not too far away,” says Jankers.
Source: Aviation Week