While the world’s attention to electric powered planes is being focused around quite a unique project, Solar Impulse and its Round The World project, Airbus is quietly preparing to make electric dreams a reality.
While Solar Impulse RTW project is now hitting delays as the weather conditions are not allowing for the plane to travel from China to Hawaii, words come from Airbus that they will build a final assembly line for their Airbus E-Fan aircraft in Pau, France. This puts the manufacturing plan in close proximity to Daher, a design firm known for its disruptive innovations in the fields of surveillance, aviation and aerospace.
This represents somewhat of a record development, as the company only demonstrated its E-Fan light aircraft last year, and now we are getting information that they will manufacture not one, but two E-Fan aircrafts.
First aircraft to be manufactured will be a two-seater, very similar to the concept that took the skies from Bordeaux Merignac Airport a year ago, while E-Fan 4.0 is a working name for the four-seater version of the said aircraft.
E-Fan will be sold as Voltair E-Fan, with Voltair being the subsidiary of Airbus, which was formerly known as EADS. The name is a tribute to Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta, an inventor that created the first battery and with whose surname we grown acquainted with the SI system unit for electric potential named Volt e.g. V.
The company intends to offer a “range extender” option as well, meaning the plane marked of tomorrow will start to increasingly look like the automotive one – ICE (Internal Combustion Engine – Propeller or Jet), Hybrid (Range Extender through Gas Turbine or Kerosene ICE) and fully electric (E-Fan).
It is expected that the first E-Fan aircraft from the assembly line takes to the skies in fourth quarter of 2017, with mass production to follow in 2018. The company plans to certify the aircraft by Q4 2017, using current, manually assembled aircraft.
Given that Airbus targets flight schools and civil aviation community with its E-Fan airplanes, questions are arising when we will see the commercial aviation version of the said technology. That date sadly, is set in quite the distant future, between 2030-2050. Unless of course, industry disruption happens (like the one taking place now in the automotive industry).