Hünxe is a pretty little town in northwestern Germany that has its own local history museum, a castle and a small market square. It also has a landing field that entered the aviation record books on November 25, 2016. That was when Pilot Walter Extra set a new world record in ascent with the Extra 330LE aerobatics plane. Equipped with an electric drive system from Siemens, the electric aircraft reached an altitude of 3,000 meters in only four minutes and 22 seconds. The airplane rose into the air at 11.5 meters per second.
“Faster, Higher, Stronger” – the official motto of the Olympic Games since 1924 – now also applies to the Extra 330LE aerobatics airplane. The plane is equipped with an electric drive system from Siemens that has a continuous power output of 260 kilowatts, weighs only 50 kilograms, and thus offers an unprecedented power-to-weight ratio. The aerobatics plane has now set a world record in ascent: the pilot reached an altitude of 3,000 meters in only four minutes and 22 seconds, beating the previous record by more than one minute.
Extra broke the previous record – set by the American pilot William M. Yates in 2013 – by one minute and 10 seconds. The World Air Sports Federation – Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) – recognized the record-breaking flight. It is now immortalized in the category of “Electric aircraft weighing up to 1,000 kilograms.”
The first flight using the drive system took off in June 2016 from the Schwarze Heide landing field in Hünxe. At the heart of the system is an electric motor from Siemens, which also holds a world record. It has a power-to-weight ratio of 5 kilowatts per kilogram and yet supplies 260 kilowatts of continuous electric power while weighing a total of only 50 kilograms.
“This is a milestone on the path to electrification in aviation,” said Frank Anton, who heads eAircraft within Siemens’ next47 startup unit. “This enormous achievement was possible only with digital technologies that enabled us to push our drive train to its technological limits.” The Extra 330LE, which weights approximately 1,000 kilograms, serves as a test vehicle for the new drive. For Siemens AG eAircraft, this record is impressive proof of the outstanding performance of the SP260D drive system and its efficient integration into the airplane built by Extra Aircraft OEM.
Hybrid Electric Regional Aircraft
The Extra 330LE two-seater will be the ideal 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. 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 megawatts. 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,” said Anton.