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Electric Le Bourget

By EV World Editorial Staff

From sleek student trainers, to futuristic tilt-rotor drones, to lumbering jetliners, the electric flight niche is starting to grow at the bi-annual Paris Air Show.

It may be several generations before we see entirely zero-emission aircraft in commercial service. For the moment, the industry is restricted to petroleum-based fuels: Jet A, aviation gasoline. But over the last couple weeks, we’ve seen a flowering of electric flight technologies, both here in North America with the Across America flight of Swiss-built Solar Impulse and a menagerie of aircraft in Europe.

While most of them, which we feature in pictorial fashion in the special edition of EV World Insider Illustrated, are prototypes and/or concepts, real progress is being made to reduce jetliner emissions, which currently is responsible for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but is projected to raise to 3%.

The most ‘real’ for the moment is the electric green taxiing system demonstrated on an Airbus 320 at the 90th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport outside of Paris. Co-developed by Honeywell and France-based aerospace firm, Safran, the system is based on a pair of electric drive motors built into the main landing gears. The motors power only the outside wheels of the pair and are controlled from the cockpit. The electric power is provided the the plane’s tail-mounted auxiliary power unit or APU generator. Intended for use on short-haul jets that spend much of their time on the ground taxiing or waiting to take-off, the pilots can move the plane without the aid of ground support equipment (GSE), which are typically diesel powered; and more importantly, without the plane's main engines running, cutting fuel consumption and reducing ground-level air pollution.

Video shows the plane taxiing with its engine covers on and literally being able to pivot in its own footprint, as well as roll backwards in reverse. Other benefits to the system include quieter gate operation, reduced FOD damage to engines, increased ground crew safety from jet engine intakes or rear exhaust blast accidents, and reduced brake wear. The partners hope to begin introducing the system to new and retrofitted aircraft starting in 2016.

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Times Article Viewed: 4693
Originally published: 26 Jun 2013

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