The Airbus’ next step forward in electric aviation is on display at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
The Airbus’ E-Fan “Plus” demonstrator aircraft has undergone an extensive transformation that marks new progress in the corporation’s roadmap toward more electric airplanes of the future.
Using the same twin-engine platform that made aviation history last year by crossing the English Channel on all-electric power, E-Fan has now evolved from the demonstrator’s original all-electric version to a hybrid configuration with longer flight range and more endurance.
The conversion activity occurred in a program led by Airbus’s Corporate Technical Office with a group of European partners. Initial test flights were performed at Royan, France prior to the demonstrator’s shipment to North America for the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh event at Wisconsin’s Wittman Regional Airport, where it is being displayed through 31 July (in Tent #63-64).
Sporting a red, white and blue colour scheme in honour of its first-ever U.S. appearance, the E-Fan “Plus” hybrid configuration incorporates a two-stroke thermal (internal combustion) engine in addition to the aircraft’s on-board array of batteries.
Extending E-Fan’s range
“E-Fan’s hybrid conversion is an essential step in Airbus’ e-aircraft roadmap, providing us with a good start on technologies and architecture to be addressed in the future.”
Installed in the rear cockpit, the 2625-series thermal engine from German manufacturer SOLO Aircraft Engines utilizes widely-available aviation fuel (also known as avgas). This new element enables the E-Fan “Plus” to operate in three modes:
- 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” that generates sufficient electricity for sustained level flight at maximum cruise speed while simultaneously charging the on-board lithium-ion batteries; and
- On the energy provided only by the thermal engine, supplied as electrical power to the aircraft’s two electric propulsion motors.
The range extender system includes the SOLO engine, two upper fuselage-mounted air intakes for cooling airflow, a custom-made exhaust pipe and an avgas fuel tank with a 51-liter capacity.
“With the range extender, the demonstrator aircraft’s flight time is expected to be approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, compared to one hour for the E-Fan when it made the 2015 English Channel crossing,” explained Denis Chapuis, who heads the Global Innovation Network for Electronics and Sensors in the Airbus’s Corporate Technical Office.