Airbus Group and Siemens have signed a collaboration agreement in the field of hybrid electric propulsion. The two companies are launching a major joint project towards the electrification of aviation with the goal of demonstrating the technical feasibility of various hybrid/electric propulsion systems by 2020.
The companies have sourced a team of around 200 employees “to advance European leadership in innovation and the development of electrically powered aircraft”. Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders says he believes that by 2030 passenger aircraft below 100 seats could be propelled by hybrid propulsion systems.
Hybrid-electric propulsion systems are seen as key to meeting European emissions targets aiming for a 75% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to the values for the year 2000. The two companies plan to jointly develop prototypes for various propulsion systems with power classes ranging from a few 100kW up to 10 and more MW, i.e. for short, local trips with aircraft below 100 seats, helicopters or UAVs up to classic short and medium-range journeys.
Both companies, together with Austria’s Diamond Aircraft, initially presented a hybrid aircraft back in 2011. Since then, Siemens has been developing an electric engine for aircraft which supplies five times as much power while retaining the same weight.
Airbus Group has been gathering operational experience with electrically powered aircraft since 2014 with the E-Fan, a full electric two-seater training aircraft.
The partners have agreed to collaborate exclusively in selected development areas. In parallel, both partners will continue to work together with their current partners for small aircraft with fewer than 20 seats.
In a related development, Airbus Group is expanding its research capacities at the Group's site in Ottobrunn/Taufkirchen to the south of Munich. The group recently inaugurated its new material research laboratory and celebrated a ground-breaking ceremony for the E-Aircraft System House. In addition, the on-site Ludwig Bolköw Campus signed an agreement to establish a new 3D printing centre, dubbed the ‘Aerospace Factory.’
The E-Aircraft System House will focus on the development of technologies for electric and hybrid aircraft propulsion. Construction work is expected to start in early 2017; the opening is scheduled for end 2018.
The newly opened materials research laboratory belongs to Airbus Group Innovations, the Group’s central global research network. Lab researchers will focus on developing materials for aircraft construction which are lightweight, robust and environmentally friendly. At around 4,500 square metres, the lab will house a team of 65 experts who will explore a diverse range of technologies ranging from 3D printing and surface technology to innovative welding methods.
The Aerospace Factory, envisioned as a centre for 3D printing, will research innovative production methods for the aerospace industry and develop them to maturity. The Aerospace Factory will be based on the Ludwig Bölkow Campus, an interdisciplinary venture between industry and universities at the Ottobrunn/Taufkirchen site.