The use of electric motors to drive cars and hybrid electric motor design have become common. Over the past decade, various types of inventions and innovation using electric motors for use by vehicles have been conceptualized and built. Even big companies, like Toyota have seen the economic feasibility of such innovations. They are investing heavily looking for the next revolutionary designs that will give them a competitive edge over their rivals and peers in the car industry.
However, in the aviation industry, the trend towards electric motor powered engines has not caught on. Thanks to Siemens, a revolutionary new design is about to change all that. It has been able to achieve an amazing weight to performance ration of 5kW/Kg. The compact motor which weighs in at only 50 kg has an incredible output of about 348hp (260kW) with just 2500RPM. This is no small feat. The output power of this incredibly light motor is almost five times more than any other motor in its weight category. That means that a single motor can lift an aircraft with a 2 ton takeoff weight into the air. Furthermore, the high rotational speed of 2500 RPM that means that the propeller can be connected to the motor directly without the need for use of transmission.
Siemens claims that their engines can be fitted onto four seat light planes. The company is set to begin conducting flight tests before the end of 2015. The company further claims that with enough research and development we could see a fully electric powered commercial flight of between 50 to 100 passengers in the near future. However, in the meantime, Siemens is working in collaboration with aviation industry players to develop a hybrid engine. The engines will be fitted onto commercial aircrafts. The plane design which is a collaboration primarily involving Airbus and Siemens and it is in advanced stage of development. The first flight of the plane could take as soon as 2035.
The key advantages of using this engine is the fuel savings. Fuel costs account for a huge percentage of the aviation industry’s costs, accounting for almost 80% of all overheads. The innovative design if implemented could save the industry about 12%, which is a big deal.
However Siemens is not the only one exploring the use of electric engines for use in commercial flight. Airbus made a debut of electric powered engine in 2014 with its E-fan. Huge strides are being made in the development of electric powered flight. The first public demonstration by Siemens on electric powered flight was a 2013 joint development of the DA36E-Star 2 motor glider with Airbus and Diamond Aircraft. That particular motor had a power output of 60kW. The use of electricity to power flight has generated a lot of interest lately. This is due to the recent attempt at the world’s first solar-powered flight around the world.
The future for electric flight
Currently, the use of electric motors for flight seems promising and has gathered a lot of interest from major players in the industry. Besides contributing positively to the fight against greenhouse emissions, this engines offer great savings on fuel costs.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.