Nearly a year ago, the EADS E-Fan electric airplane was shown as a concept at the Paris Air Show, but it hadn’t officially taken to the air.
Still, the electric airplane generated a lot of interest in the aviation community, and development continued. The EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company) Innovation Works E-Fan demonstrator is actually being used by Airbus to showcase its research in hybrid and electric propulsion for aircraft. Other developments include the eTaxi System on the Airbus A320, which uses in-wheel electric motors to taxi on the ground, reducing fuel usage. (Also, jet engines have the hardest time putting a jet in reverse.)
Now, we have seen electric airplanes, such as the SolarImpulse HB-SIA, making pure electric flights, but the EADS E-Fan is something a little different. The HB-SIA uses large propellers connected to electric motors, as well as a huge wingspan for lift and efficiency. These would never work for a compact electric airplane, such as the EADS E-Fan, based on the tiny Cri-Cri airframe. Instead of open propellers, the E-Fan uses electrically-driven ducted fans, which improves fuel economy. In the case of the E-Fan, this helps to reduce the size of the onboard lithium-polymer battery packs to something a bit more manageable, saving weight, money, and increasing range.
The EADS E-Fan made its official maiden flight in Bordeaux last week…
The EADS E-Fan is expected to be built as a general aviation training craft, but just because it’s an electric airplane doesn’t make it slow. The lightweight composite body and compact size could be significantly overpowered if Airbus installs anything over 30 kW per side, which gives the E-Fan a top speed of 136 mph (220 kmh). The demonstrator was built with off-the-shelf lithium-polymer battery packs, but the production version, which might come as soon as 2016, under Airbus’ VoltAir brand, would be outfitted with custom-built battery packs to improve on range, increasing from about an hour to perhaps an hour and a half.
Image © Airbus