Global aerospace company EADS certainly has been a busy bee when it comes to greening airplanes of late. Earlier today we mentioned a biofuel/hydrogen powered concept jet that could travel Mach 4. Before that we brought you word of EADS subsidiary Airbus and its concept eco airplane cabin from the future. Now it is all about the VoltAir all electric propulsion system concept [PDF].
EADS said the VoltAir concept envisions a zero emission air vehicle which could become a reality within 20 years. In this vision, a “next-generation electric energy storage system (batteries) will power highly efficient superconducting electric motors which drive counter-rotating, shrouded propellers.” The company believes that this system, coupled with an interesting approach to airframe design, “could pave the way towards ultra-quiet and emission-free flight.”
As batteries approach and exceed energy densities of 1000 Wh/kg within the next two decades, said EADS, it is believed the VoltAir concept could be built within the time frame mentioned. The batteries would reportedly be “integrated in replaceable, containerized units in the fuselage hold to enable an easy replacement of depleted batteries at the airport, similar to the loading and unloading of cargo or luggage containers.” Keeping this process on the ground, it is believed, helps with both turnaround times between landing and take off, as well as reducing the system’s weight.
As for the all-electric engines, the use of High- Temperature Superconducting (HTS) materials are envisioned for use as a base material to improve power densities. As these engines would likely become super hot, liquid nitrogen would be used in cooling them.
Also of note is the frame of the plane itself. It is said the shaping of its fuselage, in terms of width/length, will offer both improved aerodynamics and also perhaps very low noise levels. The cabin of the plane “further features a wide cross section compared to its length, giving the passenger a spacious cabin feeling. In addition to enhanced comfort, this offers potential time savings in the boarding process.”