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With people around the world concerned about global warming more than ever, and with countries trying to reduce emission by burning fuel, this could be the next big thing in the Airplane industry. With over 100,000 flights taking off all over the world on a daily basis it’s not a fact that should be left unanswered. Airbus claims that they are closer than ever to reality! The planes will work under 3 main alternative propulsion systems.
- Electric Planes
- Hydrogen-Powered Planes
- Solar Powered Planes
They plan to not only use this tech on airplanes, but on Helicopters, satellites and future urban air mobility vehicles.
Electric and Hybrid electric technology is rapidly revolutionizing so many industries from automotive to marine. The aviation industry is no exception! Airbus continuously works to lay the groundwork to create and make accept this tech across commercial aircraft and future urban air vehicles.
From Start to Now!
Airbus started their journey in Electrification of airplanes in 2010 with their 4 engine aerobatic aircraft, CriCri! Since then Airbus has worked on many projects that tend to look like airplanes from a Sci-Fi movie. All these airplanes have already completed many hours of rigorous and comprehensive flight testing programmes to ensure safety and high performance.
Electric Flight Projects
Let’s take a brief look at the projects Airbus has initiated.
This is an all-electric quad-copter which has a capacity of 4 seats and can be remotely piloted. Also has the capability of vertical take-off and landing.
E-Fan X is a major milestone on Airbus’ carbon-free journey. This first-of-its-kind demonstrator has provided invaluable learnings on the next-level technology of serial hybrid-electric propulsion.
This is an all-electric, single-seat, tilt-wing vehicle demonstrator focused on advancing self-piloted, and also has the capability of vertical take-off and landing.
E Fan 1.1
This 60-kW, all-electric aircraft was among the first of its kind to successfully cross the English Channel in 2015.
This two-seat, twin-propeller monoplane was the first electric aircraft demonstrator developed in the Airbus portfolio
Designed by the Aircraft design institute at the University of Stuttgart, has a 60kW engine and was sponsored by Airbus.
2. Hydrogen Powered Airplanes
Though it’s a far-fetched idea, Airbus believes that Hydrogen is one of the most promising zero-emission technologies to minimize aviation’s climate impact. They are planning on surfacing their first plane in the year 2035.
Hydrogen has high potential because it carries energy –per-unit mass that is three times higher than traditional Jet fuel. There is no harm of CO2 emissions if this energy is generated through electrolysis. It has the potential to power a large aircraft for a longer period of time to cover long distances without the byproduct of CO2. What an incredible step it would be to hold back global warming.
Primary Uses of Hydrogen
Hydrogen has been safely used in the aerospace industry for decades now. Airbus’ goal is to bring this cutting edge zero-emission energy carrier and adapt it into commercial aviation needs.
1. Hydrogen Propulsion
Hydrogen can be combusted through modified gas-turbine engines or converted into electrical power that complements the gas turbine via fuel cells. The combination of both creates a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion chain powered entirely by hydrogen.
2. Synthetic Fuels
Hydrogen can be used to create e-fuels, which are generated exclusively through renewable energy. Hydrogen produced using renewable electricity is combined with carbon dioxide to form a carbon fuel with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Solar Powered Airplanes
The Sun is not dying anytime soon! It bathes the earth with rays which potentially could generate around 885 Terawatt hours of energy annually! Airbus continuously tries to harvest this energy for cleaner and high-endurance stratospheric flight!
Approach on Solar
Airbus is currently working on 3 major areas on Solar Aviation.
- Development of advanced photovoltaic solar panels that are much lighter, flexible, has the potential to capture more energy per square meter.
- Converting the captured solar energy to an electric propulsion system to power flight and other onboard equipment.
- Harnessing the captured energy into a rechargeable energy storage system to enable flights to fly at nighttime without any hesitation.
Solar Powered Projects
Zephyr is Airbus’ brain child in Solar powered airplanes. It’s a high altitude pseudo-satellite that is powered solely by Solar energy.
Effect on Global Warming
Global warming has evidently become one of the most spoken about concern areas in the world currently. Though most people are very conscious about this problem, most of the time they are left with no other choice. As an example, if you want to fly for work or for vacation, there is no green choice for the consumer to take! With aviation being one of the biggest contributors to carbon emission, Airbus’ initiation on Zero Emission Aircrafts cannot be left under the shade! It’s great to see large scale companies move towards green energy!