Advanced electric systems under development by companies such as UTC Aerospace Systems will enable the aviation industry to develop and certificate an electrically powered passenger aircraft within 10 years.
That is the prediction of UTAS's president of electric, environmental and engine systems, Tim White, who is using Farnborough to highlight the company's advancements in electric power.
The electric aircraft envisioned by White is powered by hybrid-electric engines. Think a Toyota Prius – except the engine will turn fans or propellers, not wheels, he says.
It will likely carry no more than 20 passengers and have range of less than 500nm (926km), he adds.
White sees such advances as within reach, citing his company's ongoing work to develop improved electric aircraft systems.
UTAS has already spent some $3 billion on so-called "more electric" initiatives – a concept meaning to replace hydraulic and pneumatic aircraft systems with electric systems, which are more efficient and require less maintenance, White says.
The company has already developed electric versions of environmental control systems, flight control systems and nitrogen generators, White says. Aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35, Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 and A380 already have such systems, he says.
Because new aircraft demand increasing amounts of electricity, UTAS is also developing improved generators, including systems that generate twice as much power by weight as existing generators, White says.
The company is also studying improved means of controlling energy and ways to improve the safety of electrical systems, including the safety of lithium ion batteries, he says.
In addition to hybrid-electric technology, engineers in White's field are working on "electrification of turbine engines", which means using electric power to supplement engine thrust in certain phases of flight.