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This Hybrid Electric Plane From Rolls-Royce and Airbus Will be Ready for Flight by 2020

November 28, 2017, 3:07 PM UTC
hybrid plane
Hybrid Electric Plane from Rolls Royce, Siemens and Airbus will be ready for test flights by 2020
Siemens

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.