First Aircraft To Taxi On Electric Power: Paris Air Show Premiere

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Honeywell, Safran and Airbus testing electric taxiing for aircraft

Honeywell, Safran and Airbus testing electric taxiing for aircraft

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You know that feeling when you realize you've been missing out on some low-hanging fruit for years?

That could be what the aviation industry is feeling right now, as Airbus shows off its new Electric Green Taxiing System (EGTS) at this year's Paris air show.

The concept, reported by Aviation Week, is so simple you wonder how it's taken this long to appear. Existing aircraft taxi to and from the runway using power from their engines, but EGTS uses electric motors mounted in the main landing gear to cover those duties instead.

The benefits are almost too numerous to count.

Reduction in fuel use is the first, most obvious advantage, and while taxiing uses only a small proportion of the aircraft's fuel compared to the average flight, every gallon saved is a bonus.

There's no need for a tug to push the aircraft back when it can move under its own power (supplied by the aircraft's Auxiliary Power Unit), saving time and money. Brake wear is said to be lower--presumably, the system has regenerative benefits just as it does on electric cars--and there's less chance of foreign object damage to the engines.

Because carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions are reduced by an estimated 75 and 50 percent respectively, carbon tax liabilities at European airports are also reduced.

The system, developed by Honeywell and Safran and tested on an Airbus A320, is most likely to be used in the mid- to short-haul markets, and could save operators up to $200,000 per year, per aircraft in fuel costs.

Other companies are developing similar systems, among them WheelTug, whose electric taxiing is handled by the nosewheel, rather than the main gear.

The systems are still at the testing stage but more than 50 operators are already interested--and we're already looking forward to our first flight with electric taxiing...

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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Comments (7)
  1. That's why I like electric power, it's simple and can solve one of our biggest problems brilliantly. And think of how pleasant that would be to land and have the engines shutdown and have the plane taxi in silently.

  2. I presume they’re still generating the actual energy from the APU (which is burning fuel) though this is much more efficient than using the jet engines themselves to slowly push the plane around.

  3. Hmmm... I'm not an aerospace engineer, but they would have to be VERY powerful electric (in-wheel?) motors if they're expected to move an entire, fully-loaded short- or mid-hauler like an A320, no? And $200K per year per aircraft seems kinda low--but then the jet engines have to be "turning and burning" anyway once the plane leaves the gate because it's not like it's going to move all the way to end of the runway on electric-only power--or on landing use only re-gen braking and then shut down the engines on taxi to the gate.

  4. it can be geared down hard. What would be interesting is if you could also use the motor to spin up the wheels to save tire life while landing.

  5. Spin-up has been tried and rejected because it causes too much vibration and increases landing distance.

  6. I'm not an engineer either but I have been flying these things for 59 years. The way I think it will be used is:
    Departure, back out of the gate. Electric taxi to near the departure runway. Start engines when #3 for take-off.
    Landing, keep the engines running until clear of the runway and the APU running, shut down engines and electric taxi to the gate. APU supplies the aircraft electrical power and that powers the hydraulic system which will be necessary for normal operation of the aircraft. APU burns 30 to 50 gal per hour.
    It sounds good and practical if it has enough power to travel normal grades on airport taxiways.
    Most jets are AC power systems and use transformer/rectifiers to generate DC so a large battery will not be necessary.

  7. It doesn't have regen since it doesn't have a battery (the power comes from the APU), the brake wear savings come from the fact that normally on two engines at idle power the aircraft wants to accelerate beyond the maximum ground speed.

    The electric motor has lots of torque, no problem to move it. See the video here:

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