Siemens hopes that its ultralight motor will enable the development of commercial electric planes by 2030
Advances in electric flight technologies have barely left the headlines this year, and engineering giant Siemens is no stranger to the sector.
As part of a wider collaboration with Airbus, the group’s e Aircraft division has developed an ultralight electric motor which could help propel electrified aviation into a commercial reality. Having been fitted to an Extra 330LE aerobatic aircraft over the past few years, the 50kg motor set out on its “near-silent” maiden flight in June, and despite its slim frame provided a maximum output of 260kW.
The latest update from Siemens notes that the drive system recently set a new world-record climb time for the aircraft type. November 25 saw the outfitted 330LE reach an altitude of 3,000m in 4 minutes 22 seconds – a climb velocity of 11.5 metres per second.
According to the company, this time was 1 minute and 10 seconds faster than previous world record set by US pilot William Yates in 2013, in the category of “Electric-powered planes less than 1,000 kg,” and was officially recognised by the world air sports federation Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). Yates set his record in an “Electric Long-ESA” (so-called for its “Electric Speed & Altitude”), a craft outfitted with a 450-volt, 80 amp-hour battery pack.
“This is another milestone on the path to the electrification of air travel,” says Frank Anton, head of eAircraft in Siemens’ venturing unit next47. “This amazing performance was possible only with digital technologies, which enabled us to optimize our drive train to its technical limit.”
Because its electric drives are scalable, Siemens and Airbus intend to develop larger hybrid electric regional aircraft based on the motor. “By 2030, we expect to see the first electric-powered planes carrying up to 100 passengers with a range of around 1,000 km,” he added.