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Plane powered by hybrid-electric drive system

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Following the announcement last April that Siemens and Airbus have partnered to build hybrid-electric drive systems for regional flights, an electrically-powered aerobatic aircraft, the Extra 330LE, successfully underwent its maiden flight last week.

The plane is powered by an SP260D electric motor weighing 50kg and generating 260kW. This is seen as a first step towards the 10MW motors needed for regional aircraft carrying up to 100 passengers over distances of up to 1000km.

“We are convinced that electric drives will become irreplaceable in aviation,” said Frank Anton from Corporate Technology, Siemens’ central research and development department. “Hybrid-electric drive systems drive propellers or ducted fans electrically and generate power with gas turbines that can be optimized for constant travel performance.” Additional battery power can be used for ascent.

This concept separates energy conversion from thrust generation, which yields new possibilities for aircraft development because the central energy conversion system and the distributed electrical thrust generation system can be optimized individually. Siemens experts expect that this system will reduce fuel consumption and pollutant emissions by up to 50%.