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‘We will

certainly see
larger, faster,
and longer-
range electric
and hybrid-
electric
aircraft.’
CHRIS DRONEY

DISRUPTIVE
POWER
Electric-powered regional jets bring electrifying
experiments, mega megawatts… and hybrid hype?
WRITER: JOHN WALTON

94 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION
E-Fan X

A
ircraft manufacturers and a Boeing 777 or 787, are unlikely to Airbus, Rolls-Royce and these challenges include energy
aviation technology companies be displaced by electric aircraft in the Siemens are modifying a storage with the right capacity and
worldwide are gearing up for foreseeable future.” BAe 146 to act as the E-Fan X density, power capability of electrical
the next frontier in aviation: a “Electric-powered airplanes exist hybrid-electric demonstrator. components, increased voltage of
regional jet with electrically-powered for small short-range applications,” AIRBUS electric power distribution, power
propulsion, flying passengers for an Droney says. “In the future we will infrastructure at airports, and
hour or two with reduced emissions, certainly see larger, faster, and longer- regulatory certification procedures.”
noise and cost. And that frontier is range electric and hybrid-electric Airbus, too, is studying the
within the next 10 years, multiple aircraft. Boeing is actively engaged to challenges and potential of
manufacturers are now saying, with push the electric aircraft technologies electrification.
new breakthrough partnerships toward larger and longer-range “In terms of technology challenges,”
emerging even as disruptive startups aircraft.” Airbus’s general manager of
are working on the problem. The successful development of electrification Glenn Llewellyn
Chris Droney, an engineer in regional and larger commercial tells Australian Aviation, “there
Boeing’s Research & Technology unit, aircraft, Droney says, will be paced by are electromagnetic compatibility
suggests to Australian Aviation that the development of improved batteries challenges which we, at that power
“we might see smaller hybrid-electric and electric components such as level, need to learn about, and need to
jets for regional travel in the 2020s motors, controllers, generators and integrate into our design principles in
and short-range commercial aircraft, distribution systems. order for that to function correctly. We
like a regional airliner or small version “As with most research and have thermal management challenges
of a Boeing 737, operating in the development, there are challenges at that sort of power level. We have
2030s. It is worth noting that long- to consider,” Droney explains. “For significant kilowatts of thermal energy
range large commercial aircraft, like electric or hybrid-electric technology, that we need to manage. Knowing

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E-Fan X

that today there’s a lot of heat in a gas industry and we continue to refine and the electrical power for the propulsion
turbine that’s under our traditional
tube and wing aircraft, that heat
‘The BAe improve the concept.”
On the material science side of
system via a 2.5MW turbine with
integrated generator. First flight is
basically gets exhausted through the
exhaust of the gas turbine, and gets
146 is really things, Droney notes, “Boeing is
focusing our near-term technology
expected in 2020.
“We believe that we are actually
managed in a very simple way.
“Once we start integrating power
the only development efforts in several
focused material areas including
entering and opening the door
to the new world of aviation,”
electronics and batteries into the
aircraft, we need to manage the
platform that thermosets, thermoplastics, resin
infusion, direct digital manufacturing,
Dr Frank Anton, head of Siemens’
eAircraft department said after the
thermal challenges in a much more
integrated way with the aircraft and
meets that hybrid composite structures,
metallic materials and processes,
E-Fan X’s formal launch, at the Royal
Aeronautical Society in London on
find ways to use that excess heat to
do things like wing anti-ice, where we
requirement.’ mixed metallic and ceramic additive
manufacturing and ultra-high
November 28.
“This will be disruptive innovation.
really take advantage of essentially the MARK COUSIN temperature ceramics.” It will be as disruptive as the
thermal losses in the system.” introduction of the gas turbine from
That will likely mean a future The Airbus-led E-Fan X partnership the forties. It will be as disruptive as
electrically-powered airliner looks builds on existing work to reach the the introduction of the fan in the late
radically different to the winged two megawatt threshold sixties. And what we saw in the late
cylinder we see today. Airbus is working with Rolls-Royce sixties was that aviation relatively
“We’re investigating a lot of aircraft and Siemens to produce E-Fan X, a quickly took this new technology of
designs for the future, both standard regional airliner-sized hybrid-electric the turbine fan and that it very quickly
tube and wing and other designs,” demonstrator using a modified became the propulsion system for
Boeing’s Droney says. “For example, BAe 146, to show that shorter flights aviation.
Boeing believes the Blended Wing with serious numbers of passengers “So we could think that even this
Body vehicle concept we’ve been will be possible in the near future. new technology of hybrid electric
working on since the 1990s could be Airbus will build the energy storage propulsion might, if it really shows
developed into a product in the next systems, carry out test flights, and a benefit, equally quickly go into
10 to 15 years as a subsonic transport, Boeing’s X-48B scale Blended supervise overall integration. Siemens aviation and make another disruptive
and initial applications could include Wing Body demonstrator could will be responsible for the energy evolution of the propulsion of aircraft.”
military cargo vehicles. We’ve point to a future of radically distribution system within the aircraft, Mark Cousin, Airbus’s head of
conducted successful structures, flight different looking electrically- as well as the electric motor for the demonstrators, notes that, “Airbus has a
and wind tunnel tests unparalleled in powered aircraft. NASA inverter, while Rolls-Royce will supply history in electric flights, which started
in 2010,” Cousin says, “through to our The Airbus E-Fan demonstrator demonstrator,” Cousin says, “mainly electric motor would help to propel an
most recent project, which was the crossed the English Channel in because it’s a four-engine aircraft with airplane,” Siemens’ Anton elaborates.
demonstrator E-Fan 1, which we stopped July 2015. AIRBUS a suitably-sized gas turbine engine This is indeed at the cutting edge
earlier this year. We didn’t stop it because that we can replace directly with an of technology, and it is unpredictable
it was not a success: we decided that we electric motor.” how well the various technologies
needed to be more ambitious because the will evolve during what is a very short
world and the technology in this area is Four engines for hybrid-electric as the timescale, so demonstrating using a
moving so fast.” trusty BAe 146 plays a testbed role single engine initially seems sensible.
The E-Fan has been an airshow The distinctive high-winged four- “The propulsive force will be a
favourite since its début, not least engined BAe 146 regional jet, which Rolls-Royce AE2100 engine, the
because of the future technology that was later developed into the Avro RJ, engine that powers the Lockheed
it represents. Now, it’s getting a next will of course be familiar to observers Hercules,” Rolls-Royce’s chief
generation. of Australian aviation, especially in technology officer Paul Stein explains.
“We’ve been working for the last rural and remote areas. Why the 146? The engine will be “driving an
six months with our two partners, “What we want to do is replace the integrated generator that we build
Siemens and Rolls-Royce, in putting gas turbine with an electric motor,” within the overall envelope of the gas
together an ambitious hybrid flight Cousin says, “so we need an aircraft turbine, in fact producing two and
demonstrator to demonstrate a two with engines that were about the right a half megawatts – a little bit more
megawatt propulsion chain in a size to require about a two megawatt for spare. The power electronics will
regional aircraft,” Cousin explains. propulsion unit, and we also needed convert that power output, which
“The objective of this demonstrator four-engine aircraft for safety reasons. we believe will be the world’s most
is not to produce a product, but just So the BAe 146 is really the only powerful flying generator, into 3,000
to mature technology which will be platform that meets that requirement, volts DC to distribute to the aircraft.”
the basis of products in the future. and it’s just a good platform for the “Then the actual propulsive fan
What we plan to do is produce a purpose.” is an AE3007 off one of our regional
demonstrator with a two megawatt
propulsion system, comprising a gas
‘We are not “We’ll replace initially one engine,”
Cousin explains. “We’ll make provision
jets,” Stein says. “We’re taking the fan
off of the regional jet, mating it to the
turbine with an integrated generator
produced by our partners from Rolls-
betting on for replacing another engine in the
future, but that will depend on how
Siemens motor, and that will fit within
the nacelle of the inner starboard
Royce, a two megawatt motor driving
a propulsion fan produced by Siemens,
batteries, we the initial testing goes.
“Our intention is to replace one of
engine of the BAe 146.”
“The AE2100 gas turbine will be
and the whole system integrated with
a two megawatt battery and control
are betting on the test plane’s four jet turbines with
a 2MW electric propulsion system in
mounted in the rear fuselage of the
passenger cabin in the BAe 146, with
system produced by Airbus.”
“We’ve provisionally selected the
the hybrid.’ time for the maiden flight, which is
scheduled for 2020. That would be
a dedicated inlet and exhaust, to feed
that gas turbine,” Airbus’s Cousin says.
BAe 146 as the platform for this DR FRANK ANTON the first time that such a powerful “The two megawatt battery system,

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E-Fan X

which with today’s technology will super conductivity, and this is what we
weigh around two tonnes, will be are developing there.”
located in the forward and aft lower “Thanks to the extensive amount
hold of the aircraft. of research we have conducted in
“The power on the 3kW level is advanced lightweight engineering
then going to the Siemens power and high-tech materials,” says Wulf
distribution and the power electronics, Roscher, Siemens’ project manager for
which is an inverter, which is going to the E-Fan X, “we expect to be able to
fit in the nacelle,” adds Siemens’ Anton. drastically reduce the size and weight
“This inverter is going – on the 3kW of our drives. Although our previous
level – to drive the Siemens SP2000 The humble BAe 146 is set to era, and now the electrification era,” record-breaking motor achieved a
motor, which will be connected at provide a pioneering role in Stein says. “We’re involved in one or two continuous performance output of
voltage to the fans. And this latter part is development of the future of the hybrid-electric flight programs globally, 5.2kW per kilogram of motor mass, we
in the nacelle.” airliner. ROB FINLAYSON but this one, we believe, is going to be want to significantly improve on this
the one that actually starts chartering in our 2MW motor.”
If electric propulsion is scalable, we the frontiers of civil aviation.”
are on the verge of entering a third Of course, says Siemens’ Frank The E-Fan X is driven by “a triangle of
generation of aviation Anton, “in aviation you can only energy management”
“Transportation has been the last learn by flying. Siemens, with “This configuration of aircraft is not a
frontier for electrification,” Rolls- Airbus, started with electric pure battery aircraft, for those not in
Royce’s Stein says. “We’ve seen propulsion for aircraft in 2010, and the aviation industry,” Rolls-Royce’s
electrification in road transport, in in 2011 together, Airbus, Siemens, Stein explains. “We have a gas turbine,
the maritime sector, and rail. Frankly, and a small company called Diamond a Rolls-Royce gas turbine powering
because the technology has not quite Aircraft flew the very first hybrid- a generator, and the generator
been there with us, electrification of electric plane in the world. It was at distributes the energy through a
aviation has been slow to catch up. that time a two-seater. Now we want number of fans, which will eventually
But now with improving technology, to scale up, and when we started one lift the aircraft in a different way than
the start of this new era has begun. and a half years ago, at the beginning you would today.”
It offers the next step change in fuel of 2016, a big collaboration, Siemens “We are not betting on batteries,
efficiency, noise and environmental and Airbus developing different we are betting on the hybrid,” says
impact, and it now allows us to rethink sizes of hybrid-electric systems Anton of Siemens. “Hybrid-electric
the whole layout of flying machines for for propulsion of aircraft with the means that you have a generator
the first time. target of doing ground testing. In producing the power on board that
“The phrase used by many – ‘this The E-Fan X demonstrator this collaboration we are developing is needed for the cruise flight. The
is the third generation of aviation’ – I is intended to explore the 100kW, 2MW, but we are also batteries just add the additional power
think is a phrase that is quite rightly challenges of high-power developing 10MW. If you think about that is needed during takeoff and
applied: the piston engine era, the jet propulsion systems. AIRBUS a ten megawatt generator, it will use climb – that means that with today’s

Turbofan
FAN engine
Serial Hybrid architecture

2MW
Motor Power
FAN adaptation: + FAN Electronics AE 3007 Fan & Nacelle
Motor

COCKPIT HMI*
2MW E-supervisor Power
Distribution
Generator
Power
2MW AE 2100
Gas
Energy Store HEPS** Centre Electronics Generator Turbine

Turbofan
FAN engine

Turbofan * Human Machine Interface


FAN ** Hybrid Electric Propulsion System
engine

98 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION
battery technology you can already do
something, and do not have to wait for
some kind of completely unexpected
battery technology. With hybrid
technology, you could see it, by 2030,
being large-scale available so that
hybrid-electric aircraft can fly.”
“Any hybrid-electric configuration
requires energy storage to make it
work,” says Airbus’s Cousin. “One of
the benefits that you could envisage
is a downsizing of the gas turbine
and then supplementing it during
the other phases by energy storage.
Today, the most advanced method of
energy storage for aviation would be
batteries. Will that be the case in five As far as airlines go, “We haven’t A concept drawing of Airbus’s indeed there are major concerns
or ten years time? We don’t know, but had official discussions with them, battery-powered Vahana ‘urban about safety and a variety of types of
yes, energy storage is definitely part of but there are a number of airlines air mobility vehicle’. AIRBUS environmental impact on larger cities
it, which is why this demonstrator is who are very interested in the in particular.
built of three elements: the gas turbine development of this technology, and “We’re going to have these vehicles
with the generator, the electric turbine when it might be feasible to replace flying in cities – they’re going to be
driving a thrust-producing fan, and some of their smaller aircraft that much more local to people in order to
a battery system storing energy. It’s a they operate today with electric or serve the populations that are going
triangle of energy management.” hybrid-electric vehicles,” Airbus’s to really benefit from them. That will
Mark Cousin says. require quite significant working
Airbus is building on the E-Fan “Some airlines have already together between the regulators and
program as it develops E-Fan X signed agreements with startups in the operators and manufacturers
“We started around 2010 on our this business. There are a couple of of these vehicles in order for urban
journey of exploring the possibilities startups in the US, so the interest is air mobility to really have a positive
for hybrid-electric propulsion,” quite high. I think that interest will impact on society.
Airbus’s Llewellyn tells Australian grow dramatically as they start to “There are already cities where
Aviation. understand the technology. I already we have seen a benefit from this
“One of the best-known have two requests to go and explain type of concept. We have a project
demonstrators that we built is E-Fan. to certain of our airline customers the already piloted in South America
E-Fan crossed the English Channel potential of this technology for the where we’re looking at facilitating the
in July 2015, and we learned a huge future.” transportation in São Paulo. We’re
amount from that project. It was very already piloting the urban air mobility
successful in teaching us the potential Beyond airlines, Airbus is also concept by using Airbus helicopters.
of electric propulsion as applied to working on making flying cars a That is showing us that already today,
aviation, and it taught us a lot in terms reality in certain cities, we’re at the point
of the lessons that we need to learn in Urban air mobility “is an adventure of saturation in terms of ground
terms of electric propulsion in order to which has already started for us,” transportation. There is already
design bigger and bigger aircraft.” Llewellyn says. “We plan to fly our a market for urban air mobility,”
It’s not just the aviation industry first urban air mobility vehicle called Llewellyn says.
that is making major advances, Vahana this year – it’s a one-seat Cities the size of Sydney, Hong
however, Llewellyn says. “In parallel demonstrator. It’s got eight electric Kong, or London “are for sure
with our development of these motors, eight propellers, it’s got a candidates for this kind of societal
demonstrators, what we’ve seen in tilt-wing, and it is being built in our benefit”, Llewellyn says, “I think the
the car industry is a huge growth A3 Silicon Valley facility in the US.” simple fact that with urban air mobility
in terms of electric car stock. If “Next year we will have the first we’re talking about using a three-
we compare 2010 to 2016, we’ve flight of a four-seat demonstrator, dimensional space means that it will be
basically gone from zero to 2 million the City Airbus, with a different much more capable of absorbing traffic
in terms of electric car stock globally. type of architecture at the vehicle than the 2D space which is our current
That has had a huge impact on level. And those demonstrators form road network system.”
the technology which we rely on the backbone for our technology Regulators will have to be
in terms of aviation. So we’ve seen
improvements in performance, we’ve
demonstration for the urban air
mobility market segment,” Llewellyn
‘There are persuaded, of course, for this even
more than a hybrid-electric system
seen improvements in power density
of power electronics, of electric motors
summarises.
“There are obviously technical
a number for regional jets, and of course
within those regulators – as within
and electric generators. And that has
allowed companies like Siemens in
challenges that we need to overcome,
and that’s why we’re building the
of airlines the industry more widely – a major
upskilling will be required. The
2016 to fly the Siemens Extra 330,
which is an aerobatic aircraft, and it
vehicles and we want to demonstrate
the technology. Some of the biggest
who are very government agencies dedicated
to keeping aviation safe even as
has roughly five times the power of
what our E-Fan had in 2015 when it
challenges we need to overcome are
about air traffic management and
interested.’ manufacturers push the boundaries of
technology may well see some of the
crossed the Channel.” regulation,” Llewellyn notes, and MARK COUSIN toughest challenges of all.

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