Monday, December 04, 2017

In the Short Haul

Most Canadians have flown on prop aircraft such as the DeHaviland turbos, the four-engine Dash-7 or twin Dash-8. Many have logged a few hours of seat time aboard earlier DH prop jobs - the Beaver, the Otter and the Twin Otter. By and large they're short haul aircraft mainly used to get air passengers from smaller towns to major hubs where they continue on by standard jetliner.

One thing they all have in common from the mighty Airbus A380 to the prop jobs is petroleum based fuels, either jet fuel or aviation gas.

Well that may be about to change, at least for the propeller side. Airbus is about to launch an experimental technology demonstrator, a four-engine hybrid-electric powered transport. They're calling it the E-Fan X and it will look like this:

The potential for regional aircraft with lower operating costs, emissions and noise that can bring air transport closer to customers is the driving vision behind Airbus’ plan to fly a hybrid-electric propulsion demonstrator in 2020.

The European manufacturer has partnered with Rolls-Royce and Siemens to fly the E-Fan X, a BAe 146 regional airliner modified to flight-test a 2-megawatt, serial-hybrid propulsion system—eight times more powerful than the highest-power electric aircraft now flying.


Airbus and its partners believe electric propulsion could allow regional aircraft to compete with rail transport. Cousin says several airlines have already expressed interest in the technology, particularly if the future cost of electricity becomes cheaper as new forms of generation emerge.

“Quieter aircraft using shorter runways than today’s regional turboprops and jets would allow us to move air transport closer to communities and connect city pairs more efficiently so we can start stealing traffic from rail,” says Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce chief technology officer. “This is particularly true in emerging economies.”


Toby said...

The problem with most aircraft is that they require brute force just to get up and stay up, a feature not required of land and sea based transport. The bigger aircraft are and the faster they fly the more brute force is required. To some extent that has been acceptable but the prevailing business model is more, more, more and that cannot continue. Any attempt to reduce the fuel required should be applauded.

Anonymous said...

The Dash-7 is not a 'twin turbo'. It has four engines.

The Mound of Sound said...


Anonymous said...

The idea is a complete idiocy using current, heavy battery technology and motors.
Waste of time and technological talent.
Short haul travel? Use bus or rail.
In any case, much greater savings in CO2 emissions can be achieved by harvesting other, lower hanging fruits.

The Mound of Sound said...

Complete idiocy? Have you told Airbus? I'll bet they would appreciate your insights.

Anonymous said...

The BAe/Airbus demonstrator will be propeller-powered by electric motors operating from a gas turbine/electric-generator-set in the fuselage. Batteries will only be used for extra power for takeoff and certain other full power scenarios. Why, it'll be the diesel oops turbo loco of the air! Now with serial hybrid power! I love how these people call the aircraft electric, even though they're hybrids. A Prius hybrid doesn't claim to be an EV, but marketers are straining at the leash to call them just that. Like Volvo claiming to be going all-electric in 2020, when in fact they're talking hybrids with gas or diesel engines, with maybe one single pure EV. Nissan Leafs have been pure Evs like that since 2012! Electric just sounds so much sexier and the dope on the street doesn't understand it all anyway, so PR gets away with murder of the laguage and misdirection.

My idea from 1961 was to install steam catapults to launch aircraft, much like naval aircraft carriers. You know, if we were really serious about saving energy. Throwing away efficiency by using wings at greater angles of incidence with their attendant drag to haul around batteries with weight energy density barely 1/100th that of jet fuel, seems not that bright an idea. But hey, Japan wants to create even more hydrogen by stripping the carbon molecule from methane using electricity, and then running the hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles. God knows what the overall cycle of efficiency is, given that hydrogen leaks through solid metal walls and is wasted. Just because an idea sorta kinda works doesn't mean it's brilliant.

We shall see if all the necessary juggling of compromises makes for an attractive hybrid aircraft overall for commercial profit-making.


Trailblazer said...

Actually ( according to an Airbus insider) once aloft the new aircraft will use state of the art, graphite sails for the long distance part of the flight..


Anonymous said...

No need to tell Airbus that their own idea of mass transit on electric plane has no wings and will never take off.
This is just PR campaign and smoke and mirrors show (green smoke, it is) to distract from CO2 emissions caused by air transport, including current and future Airbus planes.

The Mound of Sound said...

BM, can you imagine the structural modifications, expense and weight penalty if a commercial airliner was to be made strong enough to endure repeated catapult launches?

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon 5:18 - do you have any evidence, anything probative, to back up your conspiracy theory? Anything?

Anonymous said...

This is Anon @ 5:18
Do not misuse and abuse word "conspiracy," because it will became meaningless (some folks who actually perpetrate it want that to happen).
So you just landed from Mars or emerged from depths of Amazon jungle?
Actions, like that of Airbus, are just a standard business practice.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, before you get completely carried away, why don't you spend a few minutes to look into this. What do you know of the 2-3 years of development Airbus has put into electric propulsion for aviation? Are you aware that they built a light (4-seater) that was electric powered? They've been flying that around for about a year and a half. And don't assume this is exclusive to Airbus. Check out what Rolls Royce and others are doing. If you had done any of that you wouldn't have been leaving these empty comments.