Until recently, the idea of fully electric commercial flight wasn’t even on my radar. But as battery costs come down dramatically, this prospect is moving from (ahem) pie-in-the-sky to a very real possibility within the next decade or so. The trouble is, we need to start cutting carbon now.
Luckily, electrification isn’t always an all-or-nothing proposition, especially in a plane with several engines. A new partnership from Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens appears to take advantage of this fact. Dubbed the E-Fan X, this will be a demonstration hybrid aircraft which—initially—will have one of four gas turbine engines replaced by a two megawatt electric motor. But as the system matures, is demonstrated to be safe and, presumably, as battery costs come down, provisions will be made toward replacing a second turbine with another 2MW motor.