Airbus Group is developing an electric aircraft designed by Didier Esteyne, with Aero Composites Saintonge. The aircraft uses on-board lithium batteries to power the two electric motors and can carry one pilot and one passenger. First flown on 11 March 2014, a test flight was conducted in April 2014 at Mérignac Airport, France, landing in front of a large audience, the French Minister of Industry Arnaud Montebourg being one of them. At the 2014 Farnborough Airshow, Airbus announced that the E-Fan 2.0 will go into production by 2017 with a side-by-side seating layout.
The E-Fan aircraft was developed by Airbus Group in association with other consortium partners. The core development team consisted of ACS, EADS Innovation Works, Astrium, Eurocopter (now part of Airbus Group). EADS Innovation Works provided the overall project management and overall aircraft energy management system, while ACS provided support in the construction of all composite parts and mechanical assembly of the landing gear and flight controls.
Institut Pprime provided support for the design of the aircraft main spar and the wing. A3IP provided design, routing, prototyping and manufacture support in the production of tailor-made printed circuit boards for electrical networks. RF Tronic Ingénierie provided design and integration of the air-to-ground telemetry system and the flight data recorder, and also developed a software to display the technical flight parameters.
C3 Technologies provided spars and wings, while MAPAERO Aerospace Coatings provided high-quality paint for the aircraft. The propulsion systems were provided by Safran, Snecma, Labinal Power Systems and Aircelle.
The project evolved from the Cri-Cri electric plane, which Airbus used as a test bed and flying laboratory for developing the battery and energy management technology used in the E-Fan.
The E-Fan is an all-electric two-seat twin-motor low-wing monoplane of composite material structure. It has a T-tail and a retractable tandem landing gear with outrigger wheels. The two motors are mounted on either side of the rear fuselage.
Two production variants are planned, a two-seater E-Fan 2.0 for use as a trainer, and the E-Fan 4.0 four-seater. The E-Fan 4.0 appears identical to the E-Fan apart from a fuselage stretch. To increase flight duration the E-Fan 4.0 will have a hybrid-electric system that will have a small engine to charge the battery (like a range extender), which will increase its duration from 2 hours to 3.5 hours. First flight of the E-Fan 2.0 was planned for 2017 and the E-Fan 4.0 should follow in 2019.
The E-fan is of all-composite construction and is propelled by two ducted, variable-pitch fans spun by two electric motors totaling 60 kW of power. Ducting increases thrust while reducing noise, and having the fans mounted centrally provides better control. The motors moving the fans are powered by a series of 250-volt Lithium polymer battery packs made by South Korean company Kokam. The batteries are mounted in the inboard section of the wings. They have enough power for one hour and take one hour to recharge. An onboard backup battery is available to make an emergency landing if power runs out while airborne. The E-fan's landing gear consists of a retractable fore and aft wheel, and a fixed wheel under the wings. Unusually for an aircraft, the main wheel is powered by a 6 kW electric motor, which allows the plane to be taxied without the main motors, and is able to accelerate it to 60 km/h (37 mph; 32 kn) for takeoffs. Having the takeoff run performed by the undercarriage relieves some of the burden on the flight motors.
A key technology on the E-Fan is its E-FADEC energy management system, which automatically handles the electrical systems. According to Airbus, this simplifies system controls and, since E-Fan is a trainer, eases the workload of instructors and students.
In December 2014 Airbus announced that DAHER-SOCATA will complete the design work on the aircraft and certify it. VoltAir, an Airbus subsidiary, developed the initial prototype and will work with Daher-Socata during the testing phase as the project manager. At this point the aircraft became the VoltAir E-Fan. BpiFrance Public Investment Bank will partially provide finance for the development.
On 30 April 2015 the company announced that the aircraft will be produced at Pau Pyrénées Airport, south-west France, at a new facility to be constructed in 2016, that will be near the DAHER-SOCATA plant at Tarbes. First deliveries were expected at the end of 2017 or early 2018.
On 9 July 2015, the E-Fan crossed the English Channel from Lydd Airport to Calais–Dunkerque Airport. It was flown by Didier Esteyne, the chief engineer of the E-Fan. Initially this was claimed as the first electric aircraft to cross the English Channel, but it has since been pointed out that there were previous such flights, including MacCready Solar Challenger as long ago as 1981, and Airbus now say it was the "first all-electric two-engine aircraft" to make the crossing. Siemens has sponsored electric equipment on the E-fan, but not motors.
Two-seat concept aircraft ad technology demonstrator, first flown March 2014.
Proposed all-electric two-seat production variant, to fly 2017.
Proposed hybrid-electric four-seat variant, to fly 2019; a kerosene fuelled generator will extend endurance from 2 h to 3 h 30 min.
Proposed 90-seat regional jet based on the principles of the E-Fan.
Powerplant: 2 × Electric motor, 30 kW (40 hp)
Props: 2 x eight-blade ducted fans, 0.75 kN (266 lb st), thrust
Battery: Lithium-ion 18650, with 207 Wh/kg per cel, total of 29 kWh
Battery weight: 167 kg
Wingspan: 9.50 m (31 ft 2 in)
Length: 6.67 m (21 ft 11 in)
Max takeoff weight: 550 kg (1,213 lb)
Maximum speed est: 220 km/h (137 mph; 119 kn)
Cruising speed est: 160 km/h (99 mph; 86 kn)
Take-off speed: 110km/h
Endurance: 45 min – 1 hr
Capacity: one passenger