Electric Aviation
Image credit: Jean-Marie Urlacher

Global energy giant Siemens has reassigned engineers from its locomotive division to develop electric motors for what it believes will shape the future of the aviation market globally.

The company believes that electric propulsion will be the industry standard by as soon as 2050, and more immediately, that the electric propulsion market for smaller, two and four-seat aircraft by as soon as 2022.

According to the company, electric motors for aircraft are influenced by train engine design, despite obvious differences in size and weight.

Improving energy density in batteries is an ongoing challenge in the electric aviation industry, and Siemens has admitted to seeing issues with batteries generating a large amount of heat during operation, said Durrell Rittenberg, director of aerospace and defense with Siemens.

“For most of the work we are doing today, thermal management [on batteries] has become the number one technical challenge. More so than we ever thought,” he says. “A lot of the composite materials used today just don’t do a good job of dissipating heat. One of the challenges with these batteries is they actually lose efficiency exponentially as the temperature goes up.”

To date, the company has deisgned electric motors for a number of different aircraft, including American company Bye Aviation, and Germany’s Extra 330LE aerobatic aircraft, which set a record for both rate of climb and maximum speed for a single-propeller electric aircraft. The ‘plane has also been the first to tow and launch a glider.