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eAircraft Airbus 300Airbus announced at Farnborough 2014 it plans to produce two electric-powered general aviation training aircraft by the end of the decade.

The two-seat E-Fan 2.0 and four-seat 4.0 aircraft will be built by a new Airbus subsidiary "VoltAir" at Bordeaux, France. The company does not yet appear to have a website as yet and other details are sketchy however... we have a video!

 

The plan is for the aircraft to have a battery endurance of two hours and engineers are developing a kerosene-driven 'range extender' which will charge the batteries in flight, potentially providing an additional 1.5 hours of endurance.

A first flight of the production E-Fan 2.0 is expected by the end of 2017 with the larger E-Fan 4.0 taking another two years to roll off the production line. Although Airbus believe the aircraft will be priced competitively against similar-sized piston-engined aircraft the operating costs (fuel and maintenance) are said to be one-third of piston-engine aircraft. Operating costs, in a world of rising prices, is certainly attractive to flying schools, their target market, however the main concern will be the time the batteries will take to reach full charge. The company believe a ground-based charging unit will be able to this in just 1.5 hours, which will be too slow for most busy operators but the hope in engineering circles is that battery technology will improve sufficiently to achieve 30-60 minutes.

eAircraft Airbus oring

The program is well past the drawing board stage as Airbus Group Innovations have already developed and built their electric-powered 'E-Fan technology' demonstrator. The E-Fan first flew on March 11 and has begun a 50 hour flight test program. To date the longest flight has been just over 35min in duration with engineers looking to achieve the magic 1 hour flight soon.

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