"Tesla in the skies": Airbus to build 'E-Fan' electric plane

By David Flynn, May 3 2015

Airbus hopes to do for aviation what Tesla has done for motoring as the aircraft manufacturer commits to building its all-electric E-Fan plane.

The tiny E-Fan 1.0 spins up for a test flight
The tiny E-Fan 1.0 spins up for a test flight

Built with a strong but light composite chassis, with two electric engines powered by high-efficiency lithium batteries, the E-Fan has already gone soaring from the drawing board into the skies.

The E-Fan 1.0 takes to the skies
The E-Fan 1.0 takes to the skies

The original prototype has notched up almost 80 flights since April 2014, and Airbus will now put the next-gen E-Fan 2.0 into production for a maiden flight in 2017.

Airbus' concept art for the two-seater E-Fan 2.0
Airbus' concept art for the two-seater E-Fan 2.0

While the two-seater E-Fan 2.0 will be aimed at basic pilot training, it will be followed from 2019 by a four-seat E-Fan 4.0 intended for the general aviation market.

The E-Fan 2.0 (left) and E-Fan 4.0 (right)
The E-Fan 2.0 (left) and E-Fan 4.0 (right)

The E-Fan 4.0 will adopt a hybrid system, using a small engine to charge the battery in-flight charge and extend flying time from the 60 minutes of the E-Fan 2.0 to over three hours.

The E-Fan 4.0 will carry a pilot and three passengers
The E-Fan 4.0 will carry a pilot and three passengers

There's also an onboard backup battery to assist with an emergency landing in case the primary battery runs out of juice while you're still in the air.

With its microjet form and large engines mounted tight on the chassis instead of slung under the wing, the E-Fan certainly looks like something from the future – or perhaps how somebody in the 1970s imagined their near-future would if people owned private jets instead of private cars.

The E-Fan's large engines are mounted on the fuselage
The E-Fan's large engines are mounted on the fuselage
No push-start required, but it won't hurt...
No push-start required, but it won't hurt...
It's always good to carry a spare jet, in case of emergency...
It's always good to carry a spare jet, in case of emergency...

"110 years after the dawn of heavier-than-air powered flight, a new transformation is coming to aviation" boasts Jean Botti, Airbus' Chief Technical Officer.

"The industrialisation of our E-Fan aircraft will help us to advance electric flight and also to gain experience to scale up the technology.”

Botti's goal – which, if achieved at all, will come long after his retirement – is full-scale production of the E-Thrust regional aircraft.

The 90-seater E-Thrust regional jet
The 90-seater E-Thrust regional jet

Like the E-Fan 4.0, the E-Thrust will rely on a hybrid power system to carry up to 90 passengers – around three-quarters the capacity of the Boeing 717 jets flown today by Qantas Link.

The 90-seater E-Thrust regional jet
The 90-seater E-Thrust regional jet

The distant end-game, says Airbus, is an all-electric or hybrid 'electroliner' which could make even today's fuel-efficient Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s seem like gas-guzzling dinosaurs.

Will this be the shape of business travel 100 years from now?
Will this be the shape of business travel 100 years from now?

Also read: Airbus patents interactive touchscreen aircraft windows

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Why there is no solar battery to hold this marvel in air for a bit longer?

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

I realise that companies are forced by their political masters to sacrifice goats on the altar of Al Gore, but this doesn't seem like a great idea. 

No battery can equal the power-to-weight efficiency of good ol'-fashioned hydrocarbons. Now, if you want to produce those hydrocarbons renewably (H2O+CO2+energy--> jet fuel) then go right ahead, but we'll be powering our aircraft by burning liquids for the foreseeable future. 

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

You right. But your rightness is quite …. boring.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

And BTW last century no one could imagine even model helicopter flying on batteries and now it is norm.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Pretty sure you could not only imagine it but buy it at HobbyCo.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 288

Actually the future is more likely to be a hydrogen based economy, including powering aircraft engines.

Well, it should be, once they crack fusion reactors at ITER (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER) 

We can't continue with a carbon based economy without paying a very heavy price environmentally. And by that I mean mega storms, mega bush fires, decade long droughts, and coastal flooding that would mean loosing 90% of Australian population centres.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 177

Get serious..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2014

Total posts 11

https://www.solarimpulse.com/

the future of the industry is going to be exciting

A "catapult" launching system would vastly increase the range. I wonder if they have considered that option?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 118

I own a Tesla Model S, it is a matter of time, this concept gets taken up by other transportation modalities (subject to laws of physics). The most amount of fuel that is required to take off upto cruising speeds can be minimised and also signficantly reduce noise pollution.


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