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PHOTO CAPTION: E-Fan electric trainer prototype in during test flight.

AirBus Commits to E-Fan Flight Trainer Production

The ultimate aim of AirBus' E-Fan electric airplane program is to eventually learn how to build carbon-neutral jetliners.

Published: 08-May-2015

First displayed at the 2013 Paris Air Show and successfully test flow in 2014, the two-place, twin-ducted E-Fan prototype, will be put into production with a potential first delivery date in the 2017-2018 time frame.

AirBus Group is financing production to the tune of €20 million ($22.5M USD), along with additional funding from other sponsors. The plane will be assembled in Pau, in the Aquitaine region of France.

Designed as a primary flight trainer, the E-Fan can be charged on the ground after each session, which are typically an hour in length, or the battery can be swapped out for freshly charged ones. The goal is to dramatically reduce the operational costs of pilot training. Denver, Colorado-based SunFlyer is also developing a electric trainer and has already taken its first orders.

Beyond the initial E-Fan 2.0 trainer, the company is developing a four-place version. The key to such aircraft is the introduction of hybrid-electric power systems or dramatically improved batteries. On that front, a company called ZAF Energy Systems exhibited their Zinc-Air battery at the 9th Annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium. According to the company, "ZAF's zinc technology can double the travel distance of electric aircraft compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries. ZAF's zinc-air battery yields twice the energy density of lithium-ion at less than a fourth of the cost, making them smaller, lighter and less expensive."

EV World is also hearing that Fuji in Japan has developed a working Aluminum-Air battery with many times the energy storage capacity of today's lithium. Both types of metal-air batteries offer energy densities approaching that of fossil fuels. Assuming they are commercially viable, they could pave the way for multiple electric vehicle applications, including electric airplanes with ranges that rival today's piston engine models.

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Airbus Group E-Fan 2.0 illustration. Seating has been move to side-by-side instead of the tandem arrangement of version 1.0.

Able to only fly for a hour at just over 100 mph, the E-Fan is a learn platform that can ultimately lead to larger, faster electric and hybrid aircraft.

Airbus Group E-Fan is powered by twin electric ducted fan motors and 127 kg of lithium batteru

The E-Fan 2.0 is expect to fly by late 2017 with the four-place E-Fan 4.0 to take wing two years later.

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