U.S. based Honeywell Aerospace and Safran, a French firm specializing in aircraft propulsion technology, have developed an unconventional solution for commercial airliners that doesn’t enable fuel savings in the air, but rather on the ground. The fruits of their joint-venture, the EGTS, or ‘electric green taxiing system’, was shown off at the Paris Air Show this week, installed on an Airbus A320 that was being steered around the crowd with its engines covered.
The EGTS will help alleviate increasing noise concerns in busy airports located close to city centres, and meet the increasing demands for better efficiency from airliners struggling to keep up with rising fuel prices.
Currently the noisy, gas guzzling turbine engines provide the thrust required to move the aircraft from the airport terminal to the runway during takeoff, and back during landing. With the EGTS, an electric motor driven by the auxiliary power unit (APU) of the aircraft propels the wheels of the landing gear forward. The APU is normally used to start up the aircraft’s engines, and for powering the passenger cabin when they are off; if used for taxiing instead of the main engines, it would use only a sixth of the fuel. The main engines would only ever need to be turned on just before take-off, and shut down straight after landing, minimizing noise and fuel burn. Time would also be saved, with fewer occurrences of delays for passengers, since a tug vehicle would no longer be required to push or pull the aircraft.
The electric motor is installed in between the wheels of the landing gear
Although we may still be far away from a completely electric airliner, the main advantage of the EGTS is that it can be installed in new and existing aircraft relatively easily, while adding only a fraction to the total weight. By providing the propulsion during taxiing, it can achieve fuel savings between 3 and 4%, translating to cost savings of $200,000 per aircraft per year on fuel. Expect to see the system, which is currently being rigorously tested, becoming operational in commercial airliners by 2016.