Airbus's Electric Airplane Prototype Is Eerily Silent in Flight

Airbus just showed its battery-powered E-Fan 2.0 electric airplane to the public for the first time, at England's Farnborough International Airshow. Standing still, it looks like a normal if slightly odd-shaped tiny plane. In the air, though, it seems decidedly abnormal. Where's the noise?

The E-Fan 2.0 is the second generation of Airbus's experimental electric airplanes. Like its first-gen forebear, version 2.0 only carries two passengers. The 1,100 lb lightweight has two ducted-fan motors putting out a combined 60kW of power, with 120 lithium-polymer battery cells providing an hour of fly time (and 15 minutes of reserve, just in case). During takeoff, the plane's powered landing gear wheels accelerate it to 37 MPH before the fan engines kick in, to save energy and reduce noise.

Pocket-Lint caught video of the E-Fan 2.0 flying around the airshow, and not surprisingly, it's just about as silent as you can get. It's like watching a non-powered glider—one that can take off from a standstill.

The tiny two-passenger flyer is envisioned as a pilot-training airplane, and Airbus hopes to bring it to market in 2017. The company is also exploring hybrid airplanes, where fuel-burning engines would serve to charge the batteries that would power the electric motors, as Airbus's Dr. Jean Botti explains:

Building electric planes to carry airline passengers is a tall order, but with Europe demanding a 75 percent reduction in aircraft emissions by 2050, Airbus and others have major reasons to push this tech forward. Someday, we could be flying high in the silent skies. [Cnet; Pocket-Lint]