When Airbus rebranded its associated activities as the Airbus Group last week, it gave its collection of self-styled ‘disruptive innovations’ some new graphics and inserted some hints about flying them as ‘demonstrators’ sooner rather than later.
The first of them, the Tropospheric Airship, specifically intended for the new Arctic zone being freed from perennial sea ice by global warming, was described here.
But there are three other technological disruptions that while having been first described by the EADS parent (now folder into the Airbus Group brand) are now given new graphics and emphasis.
They are the VOLT electric airliner, the complex e-Thrust system devised with Rolls-Royce, and the ZEHST or zero emissions high speed transport that would fly at mach 4 or twice the maximum cruise speed of Concorde, and at 32,000 metres, or almost twice as high as the now retired Anglo-French supersonic airliner.
The e-Thrust concept was somewhat buried in sideshow alley at last year’s Paris Air Show, for reasons unknown. But it clearly isn’t dead and in its detail, anticipates a complete remaking of power trains and aerodynamics in a world that simply cannot afford to indulge in fossil carbon releasing fuel sources if air transport is going to expand by an order of magnitude by mid century as billions of people seek a richer economic place in the sun.
As the new graphic (top of page) shows more clearly, the power source is generated from carbon neutral fuel by a single large engine, then distributed as well as safety buffered, to two triple sets of electric propellers.
The rationale is discussed in more detail in this earlier post.
The new graphic of the VOLT battery powered shorter haul airliner (above) puts it over the Pyrenees. Which for the cautious, is a reminder that the apparent large single rotor propelling the aircraft is a set of contra rotating blades, and we might guess that the artist had in mind demonstrating that the sustainable altitude after one of them stops will achieve the terrain clearance all big twin jets are certified to be capable of retaining these days.
The differences between the Boeing N+3 NASA study for a high winged hybrid battery and liquied fuelled shorter haul airliner called the SUGAR Volt, and the Airbus Group VOLT as it is now known, were discussed in this earlier article.
Your Volt with SUGAR is different in many ways to your future Airbus VOLT but both address the need to drastically reduce or eliminate fossil carbon releasing fuels in the next two decades. Each concept makes favourable assumptions about improved efficiencies in materials and battery storage technology (!) some 20 years from now.
The Airbus Group ZEHST mach 4 airliner (graphic copyright Airbus Group below) is very complex, as explained here but then so for its time was Concorde.
A small scale demonstrator craft is now mentioned as an objective within 10 years. The clean fuel issue is to be addressed by the use of liquid hydrogen, which raises many, many technical questions, while the hypersonic boom and thermal or friction loads issues are neutralised by cruising at an extreme altitude.