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eFusion prototype: Siemens packs battery power

330LE with Siemens motor tows glider. Copyright: Jean-Marie Urlacher


To move from fantastical prototype to commercial aircraft, the e-Fusion hybrid-electric plane could do more to ensure fast charging

In a new video, Siemens has showcased the speedy ‘recharging’ of its eFusion hybrid-electric aircraft prototype. Siemens joined up with French-owned multinational Airbus in April last year to develop a hybrid-electric plane which has the potential to become an 80-passenger commercial aircraft.

Records have been reaching new altitudes ever since. The plane’s achievements range from being the first electric plane to tow a glider in the sky to smashing world speed records for electric aircraft (largely thanks to the powertrain and SP260D motor).

Airbus and Siemens plan to jointly develop prototypes for various propulsion systems for short, local trips. On-board batteries deliver the extra power needed for take-off, and such a system could result in a 25% decrease in fuel consumption, even if fully-electric flight remains a little further out.

The video demonstrates the ease of changing over ten battery packs in the space of a mere 4 minutes and 27 seconds. The bonnet is screwed off, battery packs removed one by one, to be replaced manually by fully charged packs. The pilot waits in his seat with enough time to make a quick phone call, before firing up the propeller and jetting off.

All very impressive, then.

Nevertheless, it makes us wonder how the manual dimension of taking the batteries out and replacing them could work commercially. A commercial aircraft requires more than the current 349 horsepower needed to rotate its propeller during take-off, so will need a lot more batteries… thus, more time to swap them.

To ensure fast charging once the plane does make it to market, developers must be considering other options – they couldn’t be expected to just wing it. Much could be learned from the electric bus industry. Siemens pioneered pantograph fast-charging in previous years in Hamburg, and other companies such as Toshiba jumped on the bandwagon and have completed year-long test runs with wireless charging for buses in April 2017.

For now, Siemens has opted for fast-changing over fast-charging. The companies are in the process of developing their prototype with little expectation for its release any time soon. 4:27 is impressive, but time will tell how much fast charging technology will become part of Siemen’s agenda for the eFusion prototype.


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