Airbus and Siemens shaping the way into a new aviation future
BY SANDY STRASSER
One of the greatest industrial challenges in our days is flying without kerosene. Hybrid-electric propulsion systems can significantly reduce fuel consumption of aircraft and minimise noise load. To push this technology, Airbus and Siemens have signed a collaboration agreement. In doing so, the Chief Executive Officers of both companies, Tom Enders and Joe Kaeser, have recently launched a major joint project towards the electrification of aviation.
The common goal is to demonstrate the technical feasibility of various hybrid/electric propulsion systems by 2020. Both companies will be making significant contributions into the project in future and therefore have sourced a team of around 200 employees to advance European leadership in innovation and the development of electrically powered aircraft. Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group said: “Electric and electric-hybrid flight represent some of the biggest industrial challenges of our time, aiming at zero-emissions aviation. The progress we have achieved in this arena, together with our industrial and governmental partners, in only a few years is breathtaking, culminating in last year’s channel crossing of our all-electric E-Fan aircraft. We believe that by 2030 passenger aircraft below 100 seats could be propelled by hybrid propulsion systems and we are determined to explore this possibility together with world-class partners like Siemens.”
Also Siemens President and CEO Joe Kaeser is excited about this special collaboration: “By entering the field of highly innovative aircraft propulsion technology, we’re opening a new chapter in E-Mobility. Collaboration with Airbus Group will create new perspectives for our company and open us up even more to disruptive innovation. The undertaking will be an important project under the umbrella of our so-called Innovation AG. As previously announced, the aim of this unit is to cooperate with innovative partners in order to identify and invest in new trends and develop future-oriented business opportunities. These partners may include entrepreneurs from Siemens’ own employee environment, external start-ups and established companies.”
Airbus Group and Siemens plan to jointly develop prototypes for various propulsion systems with power classes ranging from a few 100 kilowatts up to 10 and more megawatts, 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 dedicated to training pilots. This success has been achieved together with various industrial partners and steadfast support of the French government. Airbus Group intends to accelerate the development of components and system technologies with the extended capabilities of the planned E-Aircraft System House at Ottobrunn/Taufkirchen site. Siemens is determined to establish hybrid-electric propulsion systems for aircraft as a future business. 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.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin, issue Q3 2016.