The Airbus E-Fan is the Tesla of the skies, almost
There's something slightly eerie about watching the Airbus E-Fan slip along the runway near silence. This is an electrically-powered aircraft, so there's no roaring engine as this prototype takes to the air, just the hissing of the electric fans. It reminds us of nearly being run down by a passing Tesla.
Developed by Airbus as part of an ongoing programme to explore alternative propulsion systems for future aircraft, the E-Fan made its way to the Farnborough International Airshow, having made its first test flight in March 2014.
This isn't just Airbus playing around however, as there are plans for two commercial models based on the E-Fan. The E-Fan 2.0 will be a two-seater, while the E-Fan 4.0 will give you four seats.
Designed for training or general aviation, the E-Fan is powered solely by batteries, using electric motors for propulsion.
It's fully composite, it can taxi in complete silence without using the electric fans thanks to a small motor on the wheels, and on the E-Fan 4.0, there's a plan to have a small combustion engine as a range extender, like the BMW i3.
Unlike other aircraft, there's no emissions (although that electricity has to come from somewhere), but the flight time is limited to about 45 minutes. The E-Fan is powered by a series of 250V Li-ion batteries and they take 1 hour to charge. There's plans in the future for a quick change system, to reduce charging delays on the ground, rather like Tesla.
Before you panic, there's a backup battery designed for emergency landing, as well as a parachute to rescue the airframe if the worst happens.
The electric engines put out 60kW of power and the max speed of this plane is 220kph. The electric wheel motor can accelerate the aircraft to 60kph during takeoff, before the fans kick in to carry it off into the sky at 110kph.
A spokesperson for Airbus on the stand at the Farnborough International Airshow told us to expect the E-Fan 2.0 in 2017, making this prototype a real step forward in reducing emissions and noise.