Rolls-Royce will acquire Siemens Electric and hybrid-electric aerospace propulsion business
Rolls-Royce has decided to enhance its electrification development strategy by entering into an agreement with Siemens. The plan is to acquire the electric and hybrid-electric aerospace propulsion activities of Siemens to boost the role of the company in the “third era” of aviation. The actual acquisition will probably take place in late 2019.
The eAircraft business of Siemens employs around 180 specialist electrical designers and engineers who have been developing a range of all-electric and hybrid electric propulsion solutions for the aerospace industry. Rolls-Royce and this team already worked together on the E-Fan X demonstrator project. The objective was to develop hybrid electric propulsion to scale it in order to power regional aircrafts.
One important question, at this point, comes to mind. Will this particular decision affect the future development of Rolls-Royce’s industrial and marine engines in terms of electrification? For the moment, we can only evaluate it as a potential outcome, only time will tell if that was part of the long-term plan all along.
The words of Rolls-Royce about this decision
Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: «Electrification is set to have as dramatic an impact on aviation as the replacement of piston engines by gas turbines. We are at the dawn of the third era of aviation, which will bring a new class of quieter and cleaner air transport to the skies».
«We have already made significant strides in realising our strategy of ‘championing electrification’ and this move will accelerate our ambitions in aerospace by adding vital skills and technology to our portfolio. It brings us increased scale and additional expertise as we develop a product range of hybrid power and propulsion systems».
Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce Chief Technology Officer, added: «To support the rising demand for air travel while achieving CO2 emissions targets, the aviation industry is developing increasingly environmentally friendly technologies and practices. The electrification of flight is just one part of Rolls-Royce’s commitment to making aviation more sustainable: we are continuing to increase the fuel efficiency of our gas turbines; encouraging the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable aviation fuels; and pursuing the electrification of aviation».
«We believe that pure electric, or all-electric, propulsion will power smaller aircraft in the foreseeable future, while larger aircraft will rely upon hybrid electric solutions that combine electrification with evolutions of the gas turbine. Additionally, as our group technological portfolio becomes increasingly electrical with the development of hybrid electric trains and microgrids, the capabilities of this world-class team will be a vital part of the future Rolls-Royce».
Testing is already underway
Rolls-Royce will look forward to work with Siemens also to support national and international goals of CO2 emission reductions for the future.
They have already made progress towards the electrification of flight, with ground tests of a hybrid propulsion system that can work across a range of smaller transport platforms including EVTOLs (hybrid electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles), general aviation aircraft, and hybrid helicopters. Moreover, these tests are part of a turbine engine development program that will open the way for experimental test flights in 2021.
The ground tests involved a Rolls-Royce M250 gas turbine operating in series hybrid configuration, where the engine operates as a turbo-generator that charges an on-board battery system, parallel hybrid where the aircraft’s thrust is supplied by a combination of the engine and the electrical system and also turbo-electric mode where the engine operates as a pure turbo-generator supplying electric power for thrust and any other power needs on the aircraft.
Rolls-Royce is also developing an all-electric demonstrator aircraft, as part of the Accel initiative that will attempt to break the world speed record for all-electric flight.