Aircraft

E-Fan electric aircraft makes first public flight

From left to right: Didier Esteyne – E-Fan Pilot Francis Deborde, Gérant of ACS Dominique Bonnaire, E-Fan Pilot Arnaud Montebourg, Minister for Economy, Industrial Renewal and Digital Economy Patrick Gandil, Directeur Général de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC) Jean Botti, CTO Airbus Group (Photo: Patrick Bernard)
From left to right: Didier Esteyne – E-Fan Pilot Francis Deborde, Gérant of ACS Dominique Bonnaire, E-Fan Pilot Arnaud Montebourg, Minister for Economy, Industrial Renewal and Digital Economy Patrick Gandil, Directeur Général de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC) Jean Botti, CTO Airbus Group (Photo: Patrick Bernard)
View 21 Images
E-Fan at Paris Airshow 2013
1/21
E-Fan at Paris Airshow 2013
E-Fan and the X3 helicopter demonstrator at Paris Airshow 2013
2/21
E-Fan and the X3 helicopter demonstrator at Paris Airshow 2013
E-Fan at Paris Airshow 2013
3/21
E-Fan at Paris Airshow 2013
Geneviève Fioraso, State Secretary of Higher Education and Research, visits Airbus Group (formerly EADS) at the Paris Air Show 2013
4/21
Geneviève Fioraso, State Secretary of Higher Education and Research, visits Airbus Group (formerly EADS) at the Paris Air Show 2013
Arnaud Montebourg, French Minister of Industrial Renewal visits Airbus Group (formerly EADS) at Paris Airshow 2013
5/21
Arnaud Montebourg, French Minister of Industrial Renewal visits Airbus Group (formerly EADS) at Paris Airshow 2013
Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0
6/21
Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0
Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0
7/21
Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0
Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0
8/21
Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0
E-Fan 4.0 will be a training and general aviation aircraft
9/21
E-Fan 4.0 will be a training and general aviation aircraft
Artist's impression of E-Fan 4.0
10/21
Artist's impression of E-Fan 4.0
The E-Fan was unveiled at E-Aircraft Day in Bordeaux
11/21
The E-Fan was unveiled at E-Aircraft Day in Bordeaux
From left to right: Didier Esteyne – E-Fan Pilot Francis Deborde, Gérant of ACS Dominique Bonnaire, E-Fan Pilot Arnaud Montebourg, Minister for Economy, Industrial Renewal and Digital Economy Patrick Gandil, Directeur Général de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC) Jean Botti, CTO Airbus Group (Photo: Patrick Bernard)
12/21
From left to right: Didier Esteyne – E-Fan Pilot Francis Deborde, Gérant of ACS Dominique Bonnaire, E-Fan Pilot Arnaud Montebourg, Minister for Economy, Industrial Renewal and Digital Economy Patrick Gandil, Directeur Général de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC) Jean Botti, CTO Airbus Group (Photo: Patrick Bernard)
E-Fan awaiting its first flight
13/21
E-Fan awaiting its first flight
The first public flight of the electric E-Fan
14/21
The first public flight of the electric E-Fan
E-Fan has significant noise reductions
15/21
E-Fan has significant noise reductions
E-Fan has zero carbon dioxide emissions
16/21
E-Fan has zero carbon dioxide emissions
E-Fan is an electric training aircraft
17/21
E-Fan is an electric training aircraft
E-Fan is of all-composite construction
18/21
E-Fan is of all-composite construction
E-Fan infographic
19/21
E-Fan infographic
Artist's impression of F-Fan 2.0
20/21
Artist's impression of F-Fan 2.0
E-Fan builds on the work of the Cri-Cri electric acrobatic plane
21/21
E-Fan builds on the work of the Cri-Cri electric acrobatic plane

Manned electric-powered aircraft have made record-breaking flights and turned more than a few heads in the past few years, and it's not a trend that's likely to slow down. Last week, the E-Fan electric trainer airplane developed by the Airbus Group made its first public flight before a collection of French dignitaries. Currently a demonstrator for electric aircraft technology, Airbus says that is will be used as the basis for building a new pair of electric training aircraft models.

Developed by Airbus Group (formerly EADS) working with a consortium of European aerospace companies, the E-fan made its first non-public flight at the Bordeaux Mérignac airport on March 11. The project evolved from the Cri-Cri electric plane, which Airbus used as a test bed and flying laboratory for developing the battery and energy management technology used in the E-Fan.

Built with an all-composite construction, the E-fan is 6.7 m (22 ft) long and has a wingspan of 9.5 m (31 ft). From the outside, it almost looks like a toy jet aircraft with a pair of nacelles that aren't jets, but two ducted, variable pitch fans spun by two electric motors with a combined power of 60 kW. The ducting increases the thrust while reducing noise, and by centrally mounting them, the fans provide better control.

The first public flight of the electric E-Fan
The first public flight of the electric E-Fan

Powering the fans are a series of 250 V lithium-ion polymer batteries made by KOKAM of the Republic of Korea. These batteries are mounted in the inboard section of the wings and carry enough charge for up to one hour of flight and can be recharged in one hour. For those worried about the “recharge” light coming on while up in the air, there’s also a backup battery onboard for emergency landings.

A key technology on the E-Fan is its E-FADEC energy management system, which automatically handles the electrical systems. According to Airbus, this simplifies system controls and, since E-Fan is a trainer, eases the workload of instructors and students.

Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0
Artist's impression of E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0

A neat little party trick for the E-Fan is it’s undercarriage, which is made up of two retractable wheels fore and aft and two more under the wings. The aft wheel is powered by a 6 kW electric motor, which not only powers the plane while taxiing, but also accelerates it on takeoff to 60 km/h (37 mph), which relieves some of the burden on the flight motors.

Airbus Group plans to exhibit the E-fan at ILA Berlin and the Farnborough Air Show. Airbus will further develop the E-Fan technology demonstrator and to produce and market two versions of the aircraft by a subsidiary named VoltAir called E-Fan 2.0, which will carry two passengers and the e-Fan 4.0, which will carry four. While the 2.0 will be battery powered, the 4.0 will be a hybrid for greater range.

The video below introduces the E-Fan.

Source: Airbus

Building the electrically powered E-Fan technology demonstrator

19 comments
riczero-b
Brilliant to see this, surely the shape of things to come....the powered undercarriage wheel is an innovation; how about an inverted trolley car pickup to a live rail on the runway? This could reduce onboard power consumption for take off and also enable battery recharging whilst awaiting ATC green light. If this gave tracking problems maybe a broad conductive strip could work. Eventually of course you would use a linear accelerator.
Bob809
Great idea and nice to see a large company like this take the first (commercial) steps into another era of aviation.
watersworm
A far better idea than Solar Impulse, whatever astonishing SI is... Airbus involved in a more realistic approach, almost as good for future technological implements with a cost divides by thousands compared with SI. However a far less "breaking news" for the medias worlwide !
WagTheDog
Deja vu! It's the Bede BD5E for the New Age!
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is not only green but also cool. I think a fuel cell would help recharge the batteries but also give extra energy when needed. Thin flexible light weight solar panels could help recharge the batteries.
Chris Goodwin
P.Specs lite ? One hour. OK AND: Speed? Range? Carrying capacity? Max altitude? Nos. of passengers ? How am I supposed to be impressed ?
jerryd
Now how did they screw this up so badly? Just by going to more normal props they would have far more thrust/wt. smaller dia, ducted or not, is less eff because having to turn so much faster in the fan/small version, it loses too much to air friction. Turning 2 4x's the dia props gives almost 4x's the thrust/hp. Thus why helicopters have large, slow turning rotors. And in an EV plane you can't afford to give that much up. Just that alone could double range. Nice motor the landing gear trick though by no means new.
Paulinator
Airbus raided the coffee-fund and spent the money on a technological place-holder. There is nothing revolutionary or even evolutionary about the airframe or prime mover(s). Current battery technology is the limiting factor which is not scalable, nor is it practical using any other metric. Let's watch for the advent of hyper-capacitors that are due as a result of developments in the field of nano-technology. That will change aviation (both commercial and private) overnight.
Independent Energy LLC
Great progress... now for the next step; reduce the size and weight of the battery and utilize a developing new on board generation technology that is as efficient as hydroelectric. This will enable a smaller battery to last significantly longer while providing the same relative thrust. The result is significantly increased range. Airbus: Let us show you how this is possible.
kelvint63
Looks a lot like the James Bond Silver Bullet! Something a accrued to me when I read that the rear wheels has electric motors that helps getting it up to take-off speed and reduces some of the load on the engines... Why couldn't the same think be done with Commercial Airliners? The additional weight of the batteries would be offset by the less fuel needed for taxing and take-offs. Electric Motors has instant torque and the technology has advanced to the point where they are strong and small enough to be placed in the wheels. As a bonus; regenerative breaking can help recharge the batteries every time the plane lands!