As aerospace accelerates toward a more electric future, Rolls-Royce has secured a head start on its strategic goals in this sector with the surprise acquisition of Siemens’ electric and hybrid electric aerospace propulsion unit.

Based in Germany and Hungary, Siemens’ eAircraft business has been developing all-electric and hybrid electric propulsion systems for aircraft such as Eviation’s Alice nine-seater commuter aircraft and the E-Fan X hybrid electric demonstrator with Airbus and Roll-Royce. Under the acquisition, the company’s electric propulsion design team of 180 specialists will be integrated into Rolls-Royce’s recently created electrification unit.

Rolls-Royce, which gave details of its electric propulsion game plan earlier this year, sees the acquisition as a chance to quickly augment its own developments in the sector, but also to penetrate new markets ranging from electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles to regional airliners. In the longer term, the move could also open the door to future hybrid electric single aisle successors to today’s Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families.

“We were very pleased with the progress Siemens had made on electric flight, particularly in the smaller side of things,” says Rolls-Royce chief technology officer Paul Stein. “They’ve developed tremendous intellectual property and have a top-class team of engineers. The first step is to amalgamate them with our electrical capability. It really will be a situation where one plus one equals three,” he adds.

Speaking to Aviation Week, Stein says, “As well as championing our electrification agenda, the other major upside is that other than legacy aircraft, we don’t have a product in the regional market space. So it brings disruptive technology coupled with access to a great market.”