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PARIS: Partners hoist hybrid electric aircraft

Siemens, Diamond Aircraft and EADS have adapted hybrid car technology to develop an aircraft with an electric drive system - and it is flying here at the show.

The two-seater motor glider - a Diamond DA36 E-Star in which a hybrid electric drive is used as an integrated drive train - completed its maiden flight on 8 June, at Wiener Neustadt airfield in Vienna, Austria. It demonstrates technology intended to be applied in large aircraft, and could cut fuel consumption and emissions by 25%, said Siemens.

In the aircraft, which is based on Diamond's HK36 Super Dimona, the propeller is powered by a 70kW electric motor made by Siemens. Electricity is supplied by a small Wankel engine supplied by Austro Engine. This has a generator that functions solely as a power source, and a Siemens converter supplies the electric motor with power from the battery and the generator.

Fuel consumption is reduced by dint of the combustion engine running with a constant low output of 30kW. An EADS battery system provides the increased power required during take-off and climb, and the accumulator is recharged during the cruising phase.

Diamond owner Christian Dries said the serial hybrid electric drive concept "makes possible a quiet electric take-off".

The next development step is aimed at further optimisation of the drive train. Siemens said its scientists are working on a new electric motor with a weight dramatically lower than that of conventional drives.

Another aircraft is to be equipped with an "ultra-light electric drive" two years from now. Siemens' drive technologies division already uses integrated drove trains in marine applications.

The DA36 E-Star will be exhibited daily until 26 June.