classic | mobile



A hybrid-electric passenger plane
1st Quarter 2018, Electrical switching & drive systems & components

Siemens is working together with Airbus and Rolls-Royce to test a hybrid-electric propulsion system in a large aircraft. This will be a big step closer to electric aviation.

What the companies have in mind is a 100-seat passenger aircraft in which one of the four conventional turbines has been replaced by a high powered electric motor. Such an aircraft is expected to make its maiden flight as early as 2020 and serves as a technology demonstrator for the new drive system.

Dr Frank Anton, head of Siemens eAircraft, and Wulf Roscher, project manager for E-Fan X at Siemens eAircraft, discuss this revolutionary project.

What does this project mean for Siemens in view of the company’s existing eAircraft activities?

Frank Anton: Following-up on the kick-off of our partnership with Airbus in 2016, this large flying demonstrator will be a major step for eAircraft toward a hybrid-electric future. By testing the demonstrator and its electric propulsion system in flight, we will learn how to harness this disruptive innovation for aviation.

Thanks to our existing drive systems for drones and ultralight and light sport aircraft, we are already involved in aviation. Recently, we also presented a prototype motor for the CityAirbus, a flying taxi for use in urban areas.

We are now building on the experience we’ve gained during development of motors with these outputs in order to develop the first solution for a commercial aircraft: a hybrid-electric airliner that can seat 50 to 100 passengers. This development will enable passenger transport to become quieter and more sustainable.

What exactly are you planning?

Wulf Roscher: The electric propulsion systems that eAircraft has developed to date – our world-record drive system, for example – have had outputs of up to one fourth of a megawatt. But now we are developing a two MW electric propulsion system for regional aircraft that will be about eight times more powerful than the system that drives our Extra 330LE. Four to eight such motors on the wings of a regional plane could power an aircraft’s propellors or fans. In the flying demonstrator, the electric propulsion system will obtain its power from a generator that will be powered by a turbine in the fuselage. Take-off and climbing will be supported by lithium-ion batteries, each of which will have 700 kW of power.

Anton: Our intention is to replace one of the test plane’s four jet turbines with a two MW electric propulsion system in time for the maiden flight, which is scheduled for 2020. That would be the first time that such a powerful electric motor would help to propel an aeroplane. We can imagine that in subsequent tests, we will replace an additional turbine with an electric propulsion system.

Wouldn’t such a powerful drive system weigh a lot and take up an incredible amount of space? Although electric mobility has many benefits, can such a drive system be efficient?

Roscher: Thanks to the extensive amount of research we have conducted in advanced lightweight engineering and high-tech materials, we expect to be able to drastically reduce the size and weight of our drives. Although our previous record-breaking motor achieved a continuous performance output of 5,2 kW per kilogram of motor mass, we want to significantly improve on this in our 2 MW motor.

Anton: The secret recipe is not materials or topology. The kinds of extremely light propulsion systems we are talking about can be developed and built only thanks to Simcenter, a Siemens PLM simulation suite software that takes all known physical and technical effects into account. Using this technology, we iteratively build digital twins and thus virtually optimise our prototypes. This not only accelerates development, but also results in more powerful machines.

What are the roles of the project’s partners?

Anton: Airbus will be in charge of overall integration and test flights and will deliver the energy storage systems. Rolls-Royce will provide a 2,5 MW turbine and integrated generator that will supply the electrical power for our electrical propulsion system. In addition to the electric motor for the inverter, Siemens will provide the energy distribution system. I think that by partnering, three major players are building a flying demonstrator that will bring us closer to a vision of flying across Europe in hybrid-electric passenger planes.

For more information contact Jennifer Naidoo, Siemens Digital Factory and Process Industries and Drives, +27 (0)11 652 2795,

Supplied By: Siemens Digital Factory & Process Ind. & Drives
Tel: +27 11 652 2382
Fax: 086 506 6149
Share via email     Print this page  

Further reading:

  • Fully automatic tool change for CNC machining and 3D printing
    2nd Quarter 2018, Beckhoff Automation, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies has developed a CNC-based hybrid tool solution, the Ambit multi-task system, which can be integrated into almost any CNC metalworking machine.
  • Linear actuator drive selection
    2nd Quarter 2018, Parker Hannifin - Sales Company South Africa, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    A precise balancing act.
  • New drive range for energy intensive applications
    2nd Quarter 2018, Schneider Electric South Africa, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Schneider Electric has extended its range of Altivar Process drives to include a solution for energy intensive applications in the oil and gas, mining, minerals and metals sectors – the Altivar 960 variable speed drive.
  • New soft starter with internal bypass
    2nd Quarter 2018, Rockwell Automation, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    The new Allen-Bradley SMC-50 smart motor controller with internal bypass from Rockwell Automation brings greater operational control over motor starts and stops.
  • Self-contained CLSP servo drive
    2nd Quarter 2018, Voith Turbo, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Voith’s new self-contained Closed Loop 4Q Pump (CLSP) servo drive is a hydraulic linear axis from the company’s range of self-contained drives.
  • Automotive press for light commercial vehicles
    2nd Quarter 2018, Tectra Automation, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Tectra Automation designed, manufactured and commissioned a servo-driven automotive press for Auto Industrial (AI).
  • Driving fan and pump control
    2nd Quarter 2018, SEW-Eurodrive, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    From wine farms to the mining industry, the new LTP-B Eco drive from SEW-Eurodrive is finding application in a range of sectors.
  • PC-based CNC controller revitalises traditional wood joining technique
    2nd Quarter 2018, Beckhoff Automation, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Beckhoff's CNC PC- and EtherCAT-based control platform controls the automatic manufacturing of mortise and tenon joints and provides a bright future for the traditional wood joining technique.
  • Fluid technology solutions
    2nd Quarter 2018, Bearing Man Group t/a BMG, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    BMG’s fluid technology services include solutions for hydraulics and pneumatics, lubrication, fuel and industrial filtration systems, hydraulic hose and fittings, as well as instrumentation, pumps and industrial valves.
  • Ready for Industry 4.0: Connected hydraulics
    2nd Quarter 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Decentralised intelligence and open interfaces are the crucial requirements for future automation solutions.
  • Automated pretzel buttering
    2nd Quarter 2018, Siemens Digital Factory & Process Ind. & Drives, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    MFDO UG based in Althütte in Baden-Württemberg has developed a machine capable of automated pretzel buttering.
  • Schneider Electric boosts dairy production
    2nd Quarter 2018, Schneider Electric South Africa, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Schneider’s EcoStruxure Hybrid DCS helps customers manage their dairy processes in an easy, smart and energy-efficient way.

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    classic | mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.