Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce on Tuesday unveiled a joint project to develop a hybrid passenger aircraft, a technology that could help limit the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the aviation industry and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, the AP reports.
The initiative is an effort to develop and demonstrate that these new technologies already used in the automotive industry can also be applied to air travel. The hybrid aircraft will use a single electric turbojet engine along with three conventional airplane engines.
The three companies said that the goal is to build a version that flies from the E-Fan X prototype for 2020.
The hybrid version would generate electricity with a turbine inside the plane. That energy would then be used to rotate the blades of the electric turbojet engine. If the system works, a second electric motor could be added, the companies said.
The European aircraft factory Airbus SE would be responsible for integrating the aircraft systems into a functional set. Britain’s Rolls Royce would manufacture the generator and the turbojet, while the German engineering firm Siemens AG would deliver the two-megawatt electric motor.
The companies say they are working towards meeting the European Union’s long-term objectives of reducing aviation’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60% while complying with noise and pollution limits.
Other hybrid aircraft projects are also underway. Zunum Aero, based in Kirkland, Washington, says it is working on a hybrid jet for 12 passengers. Its partners in the venture are Boeing, jetBlue Technology Ventures and the clean energy fund of the Department of Commerce, the company said.