The reason for that became clear on November 28th, when Airbus announced something more ambitious. It has teamed up with Rolls-Royce, a British jet-engine producer, and Siemens, a German electricals group, to convert a small airliner into a “flying test bed” to prove the feasibility of hybrid-electric propulsion. “We are entering a new world of aviation,” said Frank Anton, head of Siemens eAircraft. Electric power, he predicted, would prove to be as significant to commercial aviation as the invention of the jet engine.
The general view in the industry is that battery technology is not yet up to building fully-electric airliners. But just as hybrid arrangements help to extend the range of some electric cars, so hybrid systems will bring electric aircraft closer to take-off.