Aircraft

EADS unveils its vision for the future of aviation

EADS unveils its vision for th...
Airbus helped EADS to incorporate an E-Thrust-style propulsion system into an airplane design, the eConcept (Photo: Gizmag)
Airbus helped EADS to incorporate an E-Thrust-style propulsion system into an airplane design, the eConcept (Photo: Gizmag)
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An EADS model of E-Thrust shows a cluster of electric fans mounted on an airplane wing (Photo: Gizmag)
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An EADS model of E-Thrust shows a cluster of electric fans mounted on an airplane wing (Photo: Gizmag)
The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce
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The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce
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The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
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The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
Airbus helped EADS to incorporate an E-Thrust-style propulsion system into an airplane design, the eConcept (Photo: Gizmag)
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Airbus helped EADS to incorporate an E-Thrust-style propulsion system into an airplane design, the eConcept (Photo: Gizmag)
The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
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The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
Airbus helped EADS to incorporate an E-Thrust-style propulsion system into an airplane design, the eConcept (Photo: Gizmag)
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Airbus helped EADS to incorporate an E-Thrust-style propulsion system into an airplane design, the eConcept (Photo: Gizmag)
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A mockup electric fan by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
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A mockup electric fan by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
A mockup electric fan by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
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A mockup electric fan by EADS and Rolls-Royce (Photo: Gizmag)
A mockup of EADS' E-Fan electric two-seater airplane (Photo: Gizmag)
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A mockup of EADS' E-Fan electric two-seater airplane (Photo: Gizmag)
A mockup of EADS' E-Fan electric two-seater airplane (Photo: Gizmag)
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A mockup of EADS' E-Fan electric two-seater airplane (Photo: Gizmag)
A mockup of EADS' Tropospheric Airship, a concept for arctic observation (Photo: Gizmag)
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A mockup of EADS' Tropospheric Airship, a concept for arctic observation (Photo: Gizmag)
A mockup of EADS' Tropospheric Airship, a concept for arctic observation (Photo: Gizmag)
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A mockup of EADS' Tropospheric Airship, a concept for arctic observation (Photo: Gizmag)

EADS has once again taken to the Paris Air Show to present a vision of commercial aviation in 2050. Developed in partnership with Rolls-Royce to increase the efficiency of future airliners, its E-Thrust concept is a hybrid electric propulsion system that EADS says could cut fuel consumption, emissions and noise. EADS and Airbus have baked the E-Thrust into an aircraft design, which EADS calls the eConcept.

Described as an intermediate step on the road to all-electric aircraft, the E-Thrust is a "Distributed Propulsion" system comprised of numerous electric fans arranged in clusters along the length of each wing. However, the battery (referred to as a storage system, but we'll call it a battery for convenience) powering the fans is charged by an onboard "advanced gas power unit," which is why EADS is calling this a hybrid system.

Applied to the eConcept, though the best number of fans is still to be worked out, Airbus is confident that a single larger gas power plant is better than several smaller ones. This would allow a unified exhaust duct and particulate filter, and would apparently reduce noise overall.

One advantage of the E-Thrust system is that the additional power required for take-off can be met by charging the batteries on the ground (and theoretically from a clean, renewable source). The gas power plant only need serve when the eConcept is in the air, allowing this component to be downsized.

When cruising, the gas power plant powers the fans direct, though the battery is also recharged to power an emergency landing should the gas system fail. In descent, the fans and gas power plant are shut down, the eConcept effectively becoming a glider. However, as the fans start to turn of their own accord, electrical power could conceivably be generated, topping up the battery if required. Though the gas system is restarted for landing, this is solely as a backup to power the fans should something go wrong with the battery.

It's claimed that a Distributed Propulsion system allows an increase in bypass ratio, which, in a turbofan engine, is the ratio of air mass drawn through the fan but which bypasses the combustion chamber to the mass of air which passes through it. Whereas a 12:1 ratio is achievable today, EADS claims that ratios of 20:1 or better are possible with this system, allowing reductions in fuel consumption. However, EADS calls this an "effective bypass ratio" because, unlike in a turbofan engine, the airstreams flowing into the fans and into the combustion chamber are completely separate.

The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce
The E-Thrust concept by EADS and Rolls-Royce

EADS also argues that this distributed approach affords much more leeway in airframe design. Forms which reduce weight and drag, decrease the size of the vertical tail plane and improve weight distribution should be possible, it says.

To make the E-Thrust system viable, superconducting technology would be required to reduce the size of the electrical components, combined with next-generation electrical storage technology (EADS has its eye on Lithium-air batteries) capable of energy densities over 1,000 Wh/kg.

E-Thrust falls under EADS' Distributed Electrical Aerospace Propulsion (DEAP) project, which seeks to meet the targets set out in the European Commission's report Flightpath 2050 – Europe's Vision for Aviation. Specifically, the report calls for a 75 percent reduction in C02 emissions, 90 percent reductions in NOx emissions, and 65 percent reduction in noise levels by 2050, compared to the year 200.

Though tempting to dismiss this as purely speculative, EADS could have presented an all-out electric airliner covered head to toe in solar panels (In fact, EADS did present an all-electric concept called the VoltAir at Paris in 2011). That it's put forward what amounts to a stop-gap system in itself lends credence to the proposal. People appear to be thinking very seriously about the evolution of commercial flight.

A mockup of EADS' Tropospheric Airship, a concept for arctic observation (Photo: Gizmag)
A mockup of EADS' Tropospheric Airship, a concept for arctic observation (Photo: Gizmag)

EADS also used the Paris Air Show to show off its Tropospheric Airship concept, envisaged as an observation aircraft for polar regions, and a mockup of its E-Fan all-electric two-seater airplane.

Source: EADS

30 comments
Michael Russer
Seriously? This is the best of what we have to look forward to in air transport in 2050? Guess where flyers will flock to given the choice between super / hypersonic travel vs. slow-boat, yet highly efficient, electric air travel. We should be shooting for speed and efficiency, not one or the other.
Nairda
Waa,.. integrated wing ideas slowly starting to come to the viable front. Some of these designs are gorgeous.
Australian
I won't be surprised if this concept is a dead end. It looks more like EADS needs to show it's shareholders something to keep them happy. Turbo fan jets are amongst the most efficient petro-chemical engines available. Putting further energy conversion points (electric generators to power electric motors) in the propulsion chain is going to cost efficiency not enhance it.
The Creator
@Michael Russer What about efficient ALL electric AND hypersonic? Elon Musk thinks it can be done.
Michael Mantion
@KushSmoka sorry but if Elon Musk thinks all electric planes are viable then you shouldn't listen to Elon Musk. Hypersonic or not electric planes are toys and nothing more. There is no and will never be a chemical or mechanical battery to allow an all electric passenger plane. Perhaps you could generate a large amount of electricity with a hydrogen fuel sell, although unlikely it is possible, that really isn't an "all electric" idea. Regardless the pictures are good for a laugh, thank you gizmag and EADS for commercially mocking the future of air travel. One last thing why do people seem to assume that electric motors are somehow super efficient? Including a storage system their power to weight ration is horrible. Heavier plains require more lift, more lift creates more drag, more drag equals slower, less efficient flying. Hydrocarbon fuels are and will be the power souce of choice until a new unheard of fuel/energy source is created. Nuclear rockets and Ion Thrusters are more realistic than an electric fan.
ClauS
Someone should check the EADS' Distributed Electrical Aerospace Propulsion (DEAP) project and fire the ones responsible for it. This type of series hybrid is heavy and the expected advantages are hard to realize, only Fisker Karma was using it with lukewarm results. An on the ground the weight is a smaller issue, than on air. Common sense not required.
Stevetek
Wow! those are some pretty negitive comments. In order to move forward with new engineering concepts you must explore every avenue. This isn't only about speed or the most efficient engine. We are faced with an emissions problem. These concepts are at least a step toward addressing that. If you think it's nuts, just look at F1 where and electric system is used for a horse power boost and it works.
The Creator
@Michael mantion, yeah and airplanes and space travel will never exist... oh wait, they do. How do you know what future battery/energy storage technologies will exist, lithium/air, battery/capacitor hybrids, etc. Also there are things at play besides the energy storage, some of which Elon Musk goes into here, www.youtube.com/watch?v=uegOUmgKB4E&t=38m6s Why would you even compare nuclear rockets and ion thrusters to electric fans? first 2 are for spacecraft, last one is for airplanes.... "apples and oranges."
Riaanh
@Michael Russer If the public is given a choice between super / hypersonic travel vs. slow-boat, yet highly efficient, electric air travel, then the bulk of them will choose the most affordable option. "Show me the money!"
Slowburn
The idea of a battery powered airliner is ludicrous. The batteries would have to achieve an energy density not merely equal to kerosene but exceed it by at least on order of magnitude. Batteries that weigh no more than the reserve fuel that an airliner of the size would carry has to power the whole flight because batteries do not get lighter when the power is used; tanks of liquid hydrocarbons do. By the time you have increased the strength of the landing gear to land the airliner loaded with cargo and a full fuel load thy weigh so much that the plane will never leave the ground. The Boeing 747 has a fuel tank that holds as much as an Olympic sized swimming pool, THAT THEY DO NOT FILL for a mere transatlantic hop; check out the size of the battery in the model. powering a plane by unicorn farts is a more practical idea. All you have to do is genetically modify the horses and capture and process their flatulence. re; KushSmoka420 His word choice saw poor but a jet is an air breathing rocket and flight weight atomic powered jets have been built. Also there is theoretical basis for an ion airplane engine, the Ionic Breeze works on the same principal.