Hybrid-electric propulsion technology offers significant potential to optimise efficiency across a range of different aircraft applications, in line with the aerospace sector’s ambition to achieve net zero CO2 emissions. Raytheon Technologies (RTX), the world’s largest aerospace and defence company, is one company at the forefront of the development of hybrid-electric propulsion technologies across multiple demonstrator programmes.
The company has most recently announced a landmark development in its hybrid-electric flight demonstrator programme with the successful completion of a rated power test of the demonstrator’s 1MW electric motor, developed by Collins Aerospace, a business unit of RTX. The motor will be combined with a highly efficient thermal engine developed by Pratt & Whitney – another RTX business – as part of a hybrid-electric propulsion system that aims to demonstrate a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions compared to today’s most advanced turboprops.
“With its industry-leading power density and efficiency, our 1MW motor will help to significantly reduce aircraft carbon emissions by supporting hybrid-electric propulsion architectures on the next generation of commercial platforms,” says Henry Brooks, President – Power & Controls at Collins Aerospace. “As the motor’s development continues apace, each milestone brings us one step closer to hybrid-electric flight and our industry’s shared commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
A CLOSER LOOK
The 1MW motor is being developed at Collins Aerospace’s facility in Solihol, UK, and is undergoing testing at the University of Nottingham’s Institute for Space Technology. Compared to the company’s most advanced electric motor generators flying today, the 1MW motor will deliver four times the power and twice the voltage, with half the heat loss and half the weight.
Following on from the first low speed engine run in December 2022, testing of the combined hybrid-electric propulsion system – including both the thermal engine and 1MW motor – will continue throughout the rest of this year. The propulsion system and batteries will be integrated on a Dash 8-100 experimental aircraft, with flight testing scheduled to begin in 2024.
“Hybrid-electric propulsion technology offers significant potential to optimise aircraft efficiency across a range of future aircraft applications and is a key part of our technology roadmap for supporting more sustainable aviation,” explains Jean Thomassin, Executive Director New Products and Services at Pratt & Whitney Canada. “Aside from leveraging the deep expertise of Pratt & Whitney and Collins engineers within RTX, our project draws from extensive collaborations across Canada’s aerospace ecosystem and around the world.”
As well as its involvement in the hybrid-electric flight demonstrator, the 1MW motor will also be included as part of the Pratt & Whitney GTF hybrid-electric powertrain planned for the SWITCH project under the European Union’s Clean Aviation initiative. For this, future testing will be conducted at Collin Aerospace’s $50 million electric power systems lab in Illinois, called The Grid.