Frost & Sullivan: The Silent Buzz of the All-Electric Aircraft Starts in the Aviation Industry Recently introduced innovations may pave the way for new all-electric aircraft with enhanced efficiency and lower operation costs
LONDON, July 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The orders pipeline in the aviation industry may be thinner than expected, but innovation is still soaring as showcased by recent achievements and real demonstrations. Novel solutions presented by major industry players at the recent Air Paris Show, could allow fuel savings and make the aircraft environmentally friendly. The buzz word is "electric", with electric systems/engines to be used for faster taxi outs and more aircraft maneuvers. Are these the first tangible signs of the all-electric aircraft revolution?
"The key attractions at the Air Paris Show were the electric prototypes from big industry players," said Frost & Sullivan Aerospace & Defence Analyst, Alix Leboulanger. "Safran and Honeywell showed their Electric Green Taxiing System (EGTS) prototype, which could fundamentally change aircraft taxi out process by enabling the airplane to go autonomously from the airport gate to the runway without the need to engage the aircraft main engines. Another system intended to make airport areas greener and aircraft more environmental friendly is the TaxiBot vehicle, jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, Airbus, TLD Group and LEOS."
If these solutions see wider adoption, they may well pave the way for an all-electric aircraft. There are two main reasons justifying this market move. First, it is said to fundamentally enhance each aircraft availability rate, as systems and engines would be more reliant, and hence with less support required. The second advantage is also financial. With less reliance on fuel, airliners should be less affected by rising oil prices and passenger fares could significantly decrease. Consequently, the promised return of investment may be attractive enough to encourage investments despite the high costs of going all-electric.
"If developments go according to the plan, then the all-electric commercial aviation could take off by 2035-2040," noted Ms. Leboulanger. "Therefore, it is the right time to start thinking of new electric infrastructures for airports, electric storage areas, new airplane support in service, and power by the hour bespoke deals."
For now, the focus is primarily on replacing aircraft pneumatic and hydraulics systems to make the airplane lighter and faster. Engineers are currently working on how electric drives can provide better efficiency when compared to mechanical transmissions and actuators. Eventually, maintenance costs will decrease as system failures get easier to track and fix.
The final and golden milestone will be a completely electric power system and thrust. "As soon as aircraft propulsion becomes fully electric, (bio) fuels, heat engines, and combustion steel and aluminum, will be by-gone memories of the twentieth century," added Ms. Leboulanger.
Despite all developments being on-track, recent debates on lithium-ion versus nickel-cadmium batteries give the impression that the 100% electric aircraft is not ready to take off. However, there were some cutting-edge aircraft in the static display area of the Paris Air Show, which already flew earlier this year.
"There is also an essential question to be asked: Will it be an all-electric airplane first, then all-electric helicopter and finally all-electric UAV or will it just be a radical new aircraft type, like Project Zero?" asked Ms. Leboulanger. "Based on this, the entire development timeframe for aviation to go electric will be revised. With aircraft interiors getting more modular and aircraft more versatile, Research & Developments teams may well take this opportunity to realise an all-in-one change."
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