The development of the Airbus' E-Fan family accelerates the journey toward environmentally-friendly aviation.
The E-Fan is bringing more-electric propulsion to the aviation industry. Developed in an Airbus-led European programme, the E-Fan’s history-making first version was designed specifically for electric power – an important stepping stone on Airbus’s electric aircraft roadmap and toward the production E-Fan 2.0 version.
In a second step, E-Fan was transformed into an updated “Plus” version with a hybrid configuration for longer flight endurance. E-Fan Plus – which debuted during the summer of 2016 – incorporates an internal combustion engine as a range extender in addition to the aircraft’s on-board lithium-ion batteries.
These two propulsion system configurations – and ongoing innovation – highlight the aircraft’s role as a technology demonstrator that allows the company to make important advances on its electric aircraft roadmap.
Contributing to Europe’s environmental protection goals
By advancing the E-Fan demonstrator, Airbus and its partners are opening a future for aviation with fewer emissions, lower noise levels and higher operating efficiency.
This is a key step toward the European Commission’s ‘Flightpath 2050’ environmental protection goals for the air transport industry:
- 75% CO2 emissions reduction per passenger kilometre
- 90% NOx emissions reduction
- 65% noise reduction
Making history with an all-electric technology demonstrator aircraft
The E-Fan demonstrator made its first public flight in April 2014 – and just over a year later became the initial all-electric airplane to cross the English Channel completely on its own power.
The experience gained by Airbus in developing and testing E-Fan for its historic flight from England to France sets the stage for the pioneering E-Fan 2.0 – planned to be the world’s first all-electric plane certified to international airworthiness standards. E-Fan 2.0 is a serial production version that is scheduled to take its maiden flight in late 2017.
Following its successful cross-Channel flight in mid-2015, Airbus continued to move forward with E-Fan, developing an updated “Plus” configuration for the demonstrator that includes a hybrid propulsion system.
The plug-in plane Exploring the E-Fan demonstrator
Structure and weight
The E-Fan demonstrator is built of full carbon fibre composites. When empty, it weighs on 500 kg.
The E-Fan demonstrator reaches a maximum speed of more than 200 km/h. Its takeoff speed is 100 km/h and its cruising speed is 160 km/h.
The total engine power is 60 kilowatts, supplied by two battery packs.
Length and wingspan
E-Fan is 6.67 meters long and has a wingspan of 9.5 meters.
With endurance of 45 minutes to 1 hour, the E-Fan demonstrator can perform four to six flight patterns/ airfield circuits.
E-Fan Plus: the next step
Airbus formally debuted its updated E-Fan Plus version at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in July 2016. Using the same twin-engine platform, Airbus has evolved this aircraft with a “range extender” system that offers longer flight range and more endurance.
In this hybrid configuration, E-Fan Plus features a thermal combustion engine installed in the rear cockpit that generates enough electricity to sustain level flight at maximum cruise speed and simultaneously charge the on-board array of lithium-ion batteries.
This setup enables three modes of operation for E-Fan Plus:
- On electrical power only, using lithium-ion batteries to drive the two shrouded electrical motors;
- With the thermal engine also functioning, serving as a flight “range extender”
- On the energy provided only by the thermal engine, supplied as electrical power to the aircraft’s two electric propulsion motors.
Airbus' E-Fan programme partners
In pursuing the E-Fan programme, Europe is positioning itself as an electrical aircraft leader. European industry will gain expertise in everything from developing e-system architecture and validating battery technologies to the actual operation of electrical and hybrid propulsion systems in real-life aviation conditions.
Bringing about a revolution requires top talent, backed by a world-class industrial team and high-level support.
These elements have come together for the Airbus' E-Fan programme, united for successful development, production, certification and in-service support of the pioneering electric plane.
Engineering schools and their apprenticeship programmes will also have a strong involvement in the E-Fan’s development and production. They will bring the fresh perspective and ideas of young talent that represents the aerospace industry’s next generation.
E-Fan: An award-winning design
Quiet in the sky, the E-Fan has created quite a ‘buzz’ on the ground. Since its public introduction, Airbus’s innovative electric plane family has won many accolades, while creating a global fan base through its headline-making appearances at major aviation events.
The Airbus technology demonstrator aircraft’s latest award was the prestigious top honour in aviation from Germany’s GreenTec awards, which recognise “green” technologies in 14 total categories.
In 2015, E-Fan won the iF DESIGN AWARD, which recognised the E-Fan 2.0 aircraft design within the mobility category. A high-profile international jury selected E-Fan 2.0 after assessing almost 5,000 entries from 53 countries.
Engineer and industrial designer Bruno Saint-Jalmes heads the team who designed the E-Fan 2.0. “In order to create a modern vision of aeronautics, we had to come up with a totally new form of aircraft. It’s important to us that when someone sees this aircraft they think: ‘That’s an Airbus plane,” he says.
Another top distinction for the E-Fan family arrived in 2014 with the Personal Aircraft Design Academy (PADA) award. This prestigious honor from the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation recognises the world’s best personal aircraft designers and engineers. That year, E-Fan was also acknowledged as one of the top 100 technological innovations by U.S.-based magazine Popular Science in its annual 'Best of What’s New' Awards.