Never intended for centre stage, the E-thrust airliner exposed: EADS graphic

Maybe it was the negative publicity about electrical systems caused by the 787 battery problems, or maybe it was all just too hard, but there was some very interesting work on electric jets on display at the Paris Air Show presented in a way that would encourage time poor reporters to pay them next to no attention.

EADS had two small electric powered devices on display. One was an E-fan demonstrator, a two seater with the battery power install in the wings, in which the power was used to turn two shrouded fans. The other was, to use its full title, a Diamond Aircraft DA 36 E-Star 2 electric motor assisted glider.

But the most intriguing, but not time poor reporter friendly electric project EADS had  on static display was the E-thrust study in which Rolls-Royce is a major partner.

E-thrust deserved more exposure. It deserved far better graphics. It merited detailed Q and A discussions, and the underlying issue, the development of zero emissions propulsion systems, is an incredibly important goal.

A great deal of innovation has already been invested in the E-thrust project, for which a rather ambiguous and opaque ‘brochure’ can be downloaded, if your browser can cope with links written in such a way that they beg being corrupted, so a search engine query for EADS+E-thrust+brochure might work better.

The essential concept is to have a single gas fired electrical power generating unit located at the rear of the now famous Shape of the Future Airbus concept airliner, which then distributes the power to two triple sets of E-fans mounted on either size of the rear fuselage.

Central, literally, to the division of thrust units that are electrically driven fans, and one big engine that generates electrical power, is a large storage battery.  The authors of this study have anticipated a totally new set of safety performance rules that might apply to such hybrid serially distributed power systems as to what happens should the single large power unit fail. It is this large central and highly responsive storage facility which is the key to such scenarios and a future regulatory framework, as it provides the buffer power needed to overcome such an inconvenience, including during takeoff.

The E-thrust system builds in a whole range of power conservation and harvesting processes for capturing and storing energy that might other be lost in the slipstream, or from wind milling engines, and envisages a combination of unpowered gliding and powered up approaches to landings that would take current best practice in direct approaches to airfields in conventional airliners to a new level of refinement.

This is a very thoughtful ‘brochure’ taking a long view of where improved electrical power generation and storage systems can take an industry faced with the necessity of ending the use of fossil carbon releasing fuels.

Because it isn’t written for the casual visitor to an air show, it apparently assumes that all who read the brochure will already know that hybrid/electrical power systems are only effective in terms of eliminating fossil carbon emissions to the extent that this energy is generated by sustainable processes which would feed the storage devices from solar, wind and wave energy captures and algal based liquid fuels.

The brochure is well worth reading because the time is fast approaching where all energy consuming processes, whether in manufacturing, or air transport, or surface logistics, will involve the elimination of everything that causes the liberation of fossil carbon.

It’s an incredibly tough task, it’s a tough read, but it is an essential read.

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