“This is what the (Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry) has come up with, an electric aircraft based on the principles of superconductivity,” Borisov said.
In February, tests began on a superconducting aviation engine – part of a Yak-40 “flying laboratory” aircraft. The aircraft’s developers are specialists from the Chaplygin Siberian Scientific Research Institute of Aviation. The developers replaced one of the plane’s three engines with a gas-turbine engine and an electrical generator. The engine was developed by the Baranov Central Institute of Aviation Motor Development and the Ufa State Aviation Technical University. Installed in the forward part of the aircraft was the electric engine, based on on high-temperature superconductors with a capacity of 500 Kw, designed by the SuperOx company.
Electric aircraft are considered one of the most promising branches of aviation but no major breakthroughs have yet occurred in the sector. Aircraft do operate “on batteries” but owing to the large size of the batteries, these can take loads of only a limited number passengers and cannot fly for long periods of time.
Airbus is developing the E-fan X programme, along with Rolls-Royce and Siemens, aimed at creating an electric aircraft. Plans had called for a demonstrator model – a medium-sized jet with a single electric motor – to make flights from 2020, but the deadline was put back because of the Covid pandemic.
Plans to create a fully Russian electric aircraft have already been announced for 2026. One of the main inhibiting factors has been that the batteries to be used are not yet efficient enough.
Elon Musk, head of Tesla and Spacex, has said he believes that batteries needed to mass produce electric aircraft will be ready for use in the next three to four years.