The E-Fan adventure started on July 10, 2015 when a single-seat light aircraft crossed the English Channel. The twin engine Airbus E-Fan was solely powered by lithium batteries.
Bolstered by this success, the partners decided to replace one of a BAE Systems Avro RJ100’s turbofan engines with an electric propulsion unit powered by an AE2100 turboshaft engine driving a 2MW generator mounted in the aft fuselage.
Modification activities were under way on the aircraft at Cranfield airport in the UK to support a first flight in 2021.
But the E-Fan X will never take off. Airbus and Rolls-Royce have jointly decided to bring the E-Fan X demonstrator project initiated in 2017, to an end.
Grazia Vittadini, Airbus Chief Technology Officer said: “When I first started my career at Airbus, the notion of electric flight was considered a far-off pipedream.
In fact, given the unprecedented challenge of climate change, we at Airbus have been asking ourselves if we could take an even bolder approach to reduce CO2 emissions. Today, our answer is a resounding yes! But decarbonising the aviation industry is no small feat. To achieve this, we need to re-focus all of our efforts on technology bricks that will take us there. It’s for this reason that Airbus and Rolls Royce have jointly decided to bring the E-Fan X demonstrator to an end.”

With the launch of the E-Fan X project in 2017, Airbus set out with the ambition to push the limits by testing disruptive technologies in a game-changing approach to future aircraft.
The company said it learned a lot from this demonstrator project. Over the past three years, each successful E-Fan X milestone offered rich insights for the future, including:
• Serial hybrid-electric propulsion: Hybrid architectures, high-voltage systems and batteries are indispensable technology bricks for several other demonstrator projects.
• New pathways for disruptive CO2 reduction: Exploring the possibilities and limitations of serial hybrid-electric propulsion also opened up inquiry into new technology pathways. Hydrogen being one of them, which is equal parts a huge opportunity as it is a new challenge.
• Future certification and regulatory acceptance: With research partnerships on hybrid-electric and hydrogen airport infrastructure and operations, Airbus has laid a foundation for the future industry-wide adoption and regulatory acceptance of alternative-propulsion commercial aircraft.
Grazia Vittadini concluded: “Although E-Fan X will not take to the skies, I strongly believe that its spirit will live on as we continue on our journey towards climate-neutral flight.”
Despite the axing of the project, Rolls-Royce plans to continue some development work as part of its drive towards more sustainable aviation.
(Source and image: Airbus)