Hybrid vehicles aren’t going to be restricted by gravity for much longer.
Rolls-Royce, Airbus, and Siemens have teamed up to develop a hybrid electric plane engine they hope will be ready for test flights by 2020. The project—dubbed the E-Fan X—could be on commercial passenger planes by 2025.
The project seeks to replace one of a passenger plane’s four engines with an electric alternative. Because of battery weight and the cost of cooling equipment, a fully electric plane is not currently possible, but proponents say the hybrid model could open the door to a Tesla of the skies some day.
“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ chief technology officer, in a press release. “The lessons we learned from a long history of electric flight demonstrators…will pave the way to a hybrid single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective. We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”
The push for a hybrid plane engine comes as the EU has pressed the aviation industry to clean up the skies. It’s seeking a 75% reduction of CO2, a 90% reduction of NOx, and lowering noise levels by 65% by 2050.
Beyond the environmental benefits, a hybrid plane could also save carriers money on fuel costs and, because they’re quieter, could enable carriers to fly more at night.