Glenn Llewellyn is General Manager, Electrification at Airbus. He is responsible for all company-wide hybrid and electric-propulsion research focused on bringing zero-emission flight to reality.
Here at Air Race E, we will regularly profile pilots, engineers and researchers involved in the series by way of a quick-fire Q&A and spoke to Glenn given Airbus’ involvement as the Official Founding Partner of Air Race E.
What does your role as General Manager, Electrification CTO at Airbus involve?
I’m responsible for electrification across all the different Airbus aircraft. This covers drones, urban air mobility vehicles, and commercial aircraft.
Can you share any detail of exciting projects you’re currently working on in the electrification space?
The Vahana 1-seat electric vertical take-off and landing demonstrator has been flying since January 2018 and has flown more than 60 flights taking it from a short vertical hop to full transition to forward flight. CityAirbus 4-seat demonstrator had its first take-off on the 3 May 2019 and is now preparing for an extensive flight test campaign. On top of what we are doing in the urban air mobility space with vertical take-off and landing aircraft, we have also launched the E-FAN X demonstrator in 2017. This is a 2 megawatt demonstrator and allows us to prepare the technology for commercial aviation. These are hugely ambitious projects showing our commitment to bring this technology to aviation.
Why is it so important that we move towards electric or hybrid electric aircraft now?
At Airbus we really believe that electrification technologies allow us improve our products whether its about reducing or eliminating CO2 emissions, reducing noise, or bringing these lower cost technologies to our customers. Aviation provides huge added value to society in connecting people, cultures, and businesses which in my view contributed to better mutual understanding and world peace. At the same time we want to provide these benefits and also reduce significantly the CO2 emissions. We see this as a critically important challenge for our industry which Air Race E is now contributing to.
How do you see Air Race E contributing to the development of commercial electric aircraft?
Just like Formula One racing pulls technical innovation for the automotive industry, we believe Air Race E will pull the technology for aviation applications. Racing requires high performance components and teams will be motivated to push the technology further. There will also be clever solutions to thermal challenges, electromagnetic compatibility, and even energy storage. Overcoming these challenges in a race environment will contribute to the next generation of commercial electric and hybrid electric aircraft.
In what ways will electric or hybrid electric commercial aircraft look and feel different to passengers? E.g. less noise, shorter take-off, different shape, etc.
Electric and hybrid-electric aircraft allow the overall aircraft design to be reimagined. Electric motors are easier to install where they can provide most benefit for the aircraft aerodynamics and control. For example, we can imagine distributed propulsion applications where multiple electric motors are integrated on the wings or tails of the aircraft. These electric motors have significantly less noise than their traditional gas turbine cousins. This provides benefits for passengers but also to people who live around airports. In fact, these technologies could be so quiet that it allows us to take-off and land in places which were previously not permitted.
If you were an Air Race E pilot, what would you name your plane?
Zero – because for me, electrification is about bringing zero emissions technology to aviation. It is a privilege to be part of this revolution in aerospace and there is a growing community helping to make this energy transition possible.