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Electric airplane sets ascent record with Siemens drive system

29 January 2017

An electric-drive Extra 330LE aerobatics plane recently set a world record in ascent in the category of “Electric aircraft weighing up to 1,000 kilograms. The pilot reached an altitude of 3,000 meters in only four minutes and 22 seconds, beating the previous record by one minute and 10 seconds. The airplane rose into the air at 11.5 meters per second.

The plane is equipped with a SP260D electric drive system from Siemens that has a continuous power output of 260 kW, continuous torque of 1,000 N·m, weighs only 50 kg, and thus offers an excellent power-to-weight ratio. (Earlier post.) Pilot Walter Extra broke the previous record set by the American pilot William M. Yates in 2013. The World Air Sports Federation—Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI)—recognized the record-breaking flight.


This is a milestone on the path to electrification in aviation. This enormous achievement was possible only with digital technologies that enabled us to push our drive train to its technological limits.

—Frank Anton, who heads eAircraft within Siemens’ next4 startup unit

The Extra 330LE, which weights approximately 1,000 kilograms, serves as a test vehicle for the new drive. Its first public flight was in July 2016. (Earlier post.) For Siemens AG eAircraft, this record is proof of the performance of the SP260D drive system and its efficient integration into the airplane built by Extra Aircraft OEM.

The Extra 330LE two-seater will be the test aircraft for the coming years, when the goal will be to analyze and further develop how the individual components of its propulsion system work together. Siemens will also bring the technology to its electric flight collaboration agreement with Airbus, which the two companies signed in April 2016. (Earlier post.)

They want to prove the technical feasibility of hybrid electric drive systems for regional aircraft with up to 100 passengers by 2020. This will require power ratings of up to 10 MW.

The two partners plan to develop hybrid electric regional aircraft on the basis of the record-breaking motor.

We expect to see the first aircraft with up to 100 passengers and a range of approximately 1,000 kilometers by 2030

—Frank Anton

January 29, 2017 in Aviation, Electric (Battery), Motors | Permalink | Comments (60)


Here is a bit more on the hoped for regional aircraft:

' The solution is the electrification of aviation. “Hybrid-electric drive systems drive propellers or ducted fans electrically and generate power with gas turbines that can be optimized for constant travel performance,” explains Anton. Additional battery power can be used for ascent.
This concept separates energy conversion from thrust generation, which yields new possibilities for aircraft development because the central energy conversion system and the distributed electrical thrust generation system can be optimized individually. The savings potential of such systems is enormous: Siemens experts expect that it will be possible to reduce fuel consumption and pollutant emissions by up to 50 percent.

Furthermore, electric aircraft are much quieter than conventional aircraft. This will benefit not only those who live near airports but also flight operators, because quiet drive systems may make it possible to offer evening and night flights that are now banned for noise reasons. This could significantly increase aircraft capacity utilization and therefore the profitability of business models.

Musk is also talking repeatedly about making battery powered supersonic aircrafts. He has some pretty interesting ideas. One is to make it a vertical takeoff vehicle because the power to weight ratio of an electric engine is much higher than possible in a jet engine. He also envisions making these aircraft fly higher than jet engines that has problems with going really high and supersonic at the same time. It is more efficient to do so with an electric engine. Musk has said that when we reach 400wh/kg and above supersonic electric aircrafts become practical with practical range of over 1000 miles. Another idea Musk has is to navigate the plane by gimble the electric engines and drop the conventional elevator and rudder. That can save weight. Also make it fully autonomous to save more weight. Musk imagines making a plane where about 75 to 80% of the weight will be the battery pack. For comparison in rockets the fuel tank is over 90%.

One link is this otherwise Google.

Gave it more thought. You can also save weight by dropping the windows and use ultra thin and light OLED screens instead. And you could make the vertical takeoff aircraft two-stage like a rocket. The first stage will take the aircraft 4 miles up to mark 1 in 3 minutes or so and them fall back and land vertically as well getting ready for a recharge and a new launch 1 hour later.

That first stage aircraft could be 90% battery pack and weight about 100 tons so it could have a 90 ton battery at 400wh/kg. So a 36,000 kwh battery. This stage will not have any wings attached. It will look like a first stage falcon rocket just with a propeller engine at the bottom. Most of the 36,000 kwh energy will be used at launch and when it falls back it will use a large parachute and the remaining power to make a vertical landing at the launch pad.

The second stage aircraft will look and fly more like a conventional aircraft. There is a link to a picture here.

Change. Learn something about Airfoils and Lift. Efficient commercial point 2 point transport does NOT employ Vertical takeoff, and never will unless you are a courier delivering a package several blocks across town to your sweat heart.

I feel like I am watching Saturday morning cartons with my kids.

This contraption wasted gobs of energy setting this record. There was probably a lot of "Him Hawing, Gaffawing and Back Slapping", then they got drunk at the local Pub.

DSL you think like an old man that can’t get an idea out of the “proven” box of how to do stuff. This is why you are hilarious wrong about how you imagine the future. The future is not a linear extrapolation of existing stuff. It is mostly exponential and based on completely new ways of doing old things like flying or driving or making computers.

I know about airfoils and lift. However, the first stage does not need to be efficient as it just needs to get the second stage aircraft up high and at speed. The idea is to land the first stage where it took off so it has to be vertical takeoff. Efficiency does not matter in electric vertical takeoff as electricity is a very affordable fuel compared to kerosene. However, stage two will look and fly like an aircraft and make a horizontal glide. But, we also need to go supersonic so we can make an aircraft that is better than current commercial jets that are all subsonic. The efficiency gain of the electric aircraft over a jet aircraft is much higher at supersonic speeds because it can go ultra high at 20 miles above ground were the air is thinner and because jet engines needs to be designed to be efficient at particular altitudes. Just like combustion engines has peak efficiency at certain RPM jet engines has peak efficiencies at certain altitudes. Electric engines are nearly equally efficient at all altitudes in terms of trust but gain in efficient the higher the altitude because of low air drag. However, in order to get to that altitude and still have energy left for long range we need a first stage can do half of the job.

DSL you need to read up on the involved tradeoffs and then perhaps you will see the light.

When Tesla’s giga factories reaches 400wh/kg or higher at the cell level Tesla will start developing this aircraft.

I know this was an aerobatic aircraft, but the electric power train being used is designed for more conventional General Aviation applications too (260kw = 350hp, which is high, but not unheard of for GA). The rate of climb that's available is really good, about 2,260 feet per minute. That's ear-poppingly fast!

1000kg (2200lbs) is a typical weight for GA aircraft, so even if it used "gobs of energy" (DSL's comment is unsubstantiated) for this test, it shows that electric aircraft can perform and provide an extra safety factor. You can never have too much power to get you out of trouble, even if you only need it for a minute.

Change. Where are the future Requirements written that the most efficient air-based transport will have vertical takeoff? Higher rates of climb (incline) add "Exponentially" to Energy consumption.

In the future, humans will be satisfied with efficient transport.

The electric drive must meet minimum weight/power density requirements. This is a feel good test.

Excellent news for near future general aviation planes.

Current extremely noisy units with ICEs could be phased out by all electric quiet units and operated with less cost and pollution?

Really Nice info. but Auto Repair is one of the future challenging technology need to be followup.

Good doctor,
even Kim Jong-un knows that the fastest point to point is vertical take off and landing.

The photo change linked to shows a vehicle that will take off in vertically in forward flight.

The rest of the comments describe the current thinking on future aviation.

Instead of blowing off and showing your ignorance,try reading the article.

It will Never replace a Turbine. As fuel is spent, a Turbine aircraft becomes "Lighter". It is designed for long distances.

Given that batteries are Dead weight, an electric drive will be relegated to short hops of no more than a few hundred miles.

H2 tanks and fuelcells can do it. The Mirai fuelcell already delivers 114 kW (2kW/litre), which is very feasible for planes. H2 is the ideal range extender for planes. Volume is hardly an issue, only weight is. You can take large wings and fill them with H2.

A hydrogen Fuel Cell hybrid drive makes a lot of sense for an airplane...much more so than as in an automobile.

The idea is to store surplus electricity from the Sun as compressed hydrogen, using electrolysis; then use the hydrogen directly to drive the fuel cell to create electricity for an articulating ducted fan, using a smaller battery pack as a buffer and safety device. The gambled fan will be used for directional control. This approach has a lot of advantages, including being able to refuel quickly and not carry the extra weight of a large battery pack. Something I've talked about for a couple of years now.

Reform Jet-A for a fuel cell charging batteries in an electric plane.


"Electric and electric-hybrid flight represent some of the biggest industrial challenges of our time, aiming at zero-emissions aviation. The progress we have achieved in this arena, together with our industrial and governmental partners, in only a few years is breath-taking, culminating in last year’s channel crossing of our all-electric E-Fan aircraft. [Earlier post.] We believe that by 2030 passenger aircraft below 100 seats could be propelled by hybrid propulsion systems and we are determined to explore this possibility together with world-class partners like Siemens."

But Siemans don't make jet engines they make fuel cells and electronics.

"Siemens to build Europe's first close-to-series fuel-cell power plant › CEE News Archive
The Siemens Power Generation Group (PG) is to build for the very first time a close-to-series fuel-cell power plant in Europe. ... The high-temperature fuel-cell power plant, which PG will be supplying on a turnkey basis, will in normal operating mode feed 225 kW of electrical energy ..."

I've seen descriptions for electric powered large bodied passenger aircraft that explain how more smaller e-motors can be distributed to the most aerodynamic efficient areas on wing or body to achieve energy savings and reduce noise.

I wonder if there could be a place for aircraft carrier style catapults and or high powered capacitors or some other I.E. rocket eng for peak power situations.

@Lad hydrogen for aviation is not gonna happen. LNG perhaps but not hydrogen. There are several problems with hydrogen. It has very low volumetric energy density so you can’t make an efficient aerodynamic design for a long-range high speed aircraft. Batteries are much better already in terms of volumetric energy density although they still loose to hydrogen on gravimetric energy density at least for aviation applications. But even in gravimetric energy density hydrogen is losing now in car applications. The current Tesla Model S 60 weights only 1961 kg and the hydrogen Toyota Mirai that is a smaller car with much less power weights 1850 kg. See links below. I expect the coming Model 3 to weigh about the same as Toyota Mirai and have about the same range and much more power.

Also the lowest weight and high efficiency fuel cells (the PEMs) that are needed for aviation and cars only last about 2000 hours. An airplane is typically operated 6000 or more hours per year so you need to replace all the fuel cells every 4 months. This is much too expensive.

Kerosene is the best aviation fuel because of its energy density so currently and many decades ahead it is the only way to make a large airplane with over 5000 miles range. Musk believes 1000 miles range is possible with 400wh/kg batteries and he has of cause done the math. However, most energy in an airplane is used to get up and at speed. This is why I think a two stage system for supersonic battery electric aircraft is the way forward (Musk may have that in mind in his design but he has not said it publicly). It could probably increase range by 30% if the first stage could take the first stage to mark 1 and 4 miles up.

I have though more about the design of the first stage booster. If it only needs to go straight up and fall straight back a cylindrical design containing the battery with a large quadcopter structure at the bottom and another at the top of that cylindrical battery could work. I think it needs two such structures to steer itself reliable during fallback and to have a landing structure (the bottom quadcopter structure will also be the landing structure). This design will not need a parachute at fall back as the large quadcopters would slow the fall and even be able to generate some electricity to be used for stopping the vehicle fully at landing. Of cause it will take a lot of complicated calculations to see if this is feasible but it is worth it if such a system could boost the range of a large battery electric supersonic aircraft by 30%.

Another “insane idea” I just got is to use a superconductive cable (that can take millions of watt in a thin wire and power the booster stage for the first mile before releasing that cable that will then fall back using a parachute. Somebody should try it out. It could save a lot of batteries.

really nice info and article about aviation technology. Mechanic needed

Ground vehicles can be heavy, planes have to be light.
35-40% of the weight of a long range plane could be fuel.
Kerosene had about 115x the energy density of Li batteries, even at 400wH/Kg.
The sums are way off.
Short duration club aircraft, small trainers will be possible, 20 Ton turboprops, like an ATR42 could work with hybridization, but I see no way to do medium / long haul with electric.
It is the energy density of the fuel (in terms of weight and volume), not to mention the cost (in terms of weight) of making 100 tons of Li batteries safe.

@mahonj batteries are safe if you can monitor their temperature and keep them cool. This is why there is not a single Tesla that has burned spontaneously. Battery safety is not an issue that cannot be solved 100%.

Kerosene is only 32 times more energy dense gravimetrically than 400wh/kg batteries. Kerosene store 46 MJ/kg which equal 12. 7kwh so it is 32 times.


Still Musk says he can do 1000 miles with a 400wh/kg battery which is about 1/7 of that possible with a kerosene jet. So how is that?

1) The electric fan is much more efficient than a jet engine where most energy is lost to heat.
2) Moreover, Musk plan to go supersonic at high altitude probably 72,000 feet above ground and the air drag is less there so the cruising efficiency is increased further over the jet engine that is subsonic at 36,000 feet.
3) Next Musk plan to take advantage of a more efficient design without elevator and rudder that can only be done with electric engines that can be placed and guided to maintain control.
4) My speculation is that windows are unnecessary also and can be replaced with less heavy flat screens inside the cabin. Musk is probably planning that already.
5) My speculation is also that the electric aircraft could have a booster stage like describe above. Again I think it is highly likely that Musk has already included that in his design. Hopefully he has not because that may give the electric airplane even more range and become more useful.

Also note if we one day could make a 800wh/kg battery we will be able to make electric planes with not 2000 miles range but more likely 4000 miles rage as most energy is spend to get to speed at high altitude. 4000 miles is enough for all intercontinental travel at supersonic speeds and zero emission. That would clearly be progress.

I believe the aviation future is also going to be battery electric and that kerosene jets should be restricted to military airplanes. They simply pollute too much.

I forgot reason number 6:

6) My speculation is also that the electric aircraft could safe weight by getting rid of the cockpit and become fully autonomous like the Falcon 9 rocket from Space X.

@mahonj Musk will use a battery to weight ratio of 70 to 75% for his airplane. Rockets are over 90% (with fuel and oxygen) and kerosene jets are about 35 to 40% as you say.

The future of e-planes depends on the evolution of batteries and FCs.

Short of 800 Wh/Kg at cell level and equivalent or better power/weight ratio for FCs, e-planes or hybrid e-planes may not be mass produced.

With the current 8%/year development rate, those conditions may not happen much before 2030/2035.

DME is easier than LNG, it is liquid at 75 PSI and can be used directly in HTPEMs with the proper anode catalyst.

DSL> This is a feel good test.

Yes, the engineers and test pilot felt good after the flight concluded successfully.

Electric propulsion will be one of the most consequential developments in the history of aviation.

Most importantly, it will revive the dying General Aviation segment by reducing the cost of fuel 80% or more, and powerplant maintenance a similar amount.

No carb icing. No reduction of power at altitude. No oil system failure. No spark plug failure. No piston cracking, connecting rod failure, crankshaft failure, cylinder jug failure, etc. etc. etc.

Can't wait to buy my first electric airplane.

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