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Rolls-Royce snaps up Siemens’ electric plane business

Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s largest makers of aircraft engines, has this week announced it has agreed to buy Siemens’ eAircraft business, in a major boost for the fledgling electric aviation market.

The two companies said the agreement, announced on Tuesday, will see Rolls-Royce take complete control of the Germany- and Hungary-based business, which employs 180 specialist designers and engineers working on electric flight technologies.

The two companies have already collaborated on the E-Fan X demonstrator project, a pilot scheme to design a hybrid electric plane that could provide low-emission short haul flights.

Rolls-Royce said the move to take full control over the Siemens business would “accelerate” the delivery of its electrification strategy and boost its ambitions to “play a major role in the ‘third era’ of aviation”.

“Electrification is set to have as dramatic an impact on aviation as the replacement of piston engines by gas turbines,” said Rob Watson, director of Rolls-Royce Electrical. “We are at the dawn of the third era of aviation, which will bring a new class of quieter and cleaner air transport to the skies.”

More efficient engines, lighter planes, and biofuels are all seen as key parts of the carbon-cutting mix for aviation, but few technologies promise zero-emission flight more readily than electric planes – provided batteries or fuel cells can become much lighter, cheaper, and more powerful.

Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce chief technology officer, said the firm believes electric planes will take over powering smaller aircraft for regional flights in the future, while longer haul routes will be serviced by hybrid planes powered by gas and electricity.

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The transaction is set to complete by the end of the year, Rolls-Royce said, pending an employee consultation. As part of the agreement, the two companies will continue to work together on low-emission flight technologies, it added.


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