Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce are teaming up to develop a hybrid passenger plane that would use a single electric turbofan along with three conventional jet engines running on aviation fuel.
The three companies said Tuesday they aim to build a flying version of the E-Fan X technology demonstrator plane by 2020.
The aircraft would be based on the existing BAe 146 four-engine regional jet. The hybrid version would generate electric power through a turbine within the plane. That power would be used to turn the fan blades of the single electric turbofan engine.
If the system works, a second electric motor could be added, the companies said.
The companies said plane maker Airbus would be responsible for building the aircraft's systems into a working whole, control systems and flight controls. Jet engine maker Rolls-Royce would make the generator and the turbo-shaft engine and engineering company Siemens would deliver the two-megawatt electric motor to power the engine.
The companies said they were looking ahead to the European Union's long-term goals of reducing CO2 emissions from aviation by 60 percent, as well as meeting noise and pollution limits that they said "cannot be achieved with technologies existing today." CO2 — carbon dioxide — is a greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to global warming.
Other projects for hybrid or electric planes are in the works. Kirkland, Washington-based Zunum Aero says it is working on a 12-seat hybrid-electric commuter jet. The company's website lists its partners as Boeing, jetBlue Technology Ventures, and the Department of Commerce Clean Energy Fund.