- Major step towards hybrid electric flight for commercial air passenger transport
- World’s first megawatt (high power) and multi-kilovolt (high voltage) class hybrid electrical system tested in altitude conditions
- Altitude integration test completed at NASA’s NEAT facility
- One MW could power over 600 homes*
At the Farnborough International Airshow, GE announced that it has completed the world’s first test of a megawatt (MW) and multi-kilovolt (kV) class hybrid electric propulsion system in altitude conditions that simulate commercial single-aisle flight. .
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GE is completing the world’s first test of a megawatt (MW) and multi-kilovolt (kV) class hybrid electric propulsion system under altitude conditions that simulate commercial single-aisle flight. (Photo: BusinessWire)
High-power, high-voltage system testing – including electric motors/generators, power converters, power transmission and power control systems – successfully demonstrated component performance and operation in a flight reproduced. This makes it possible to validate the architecture of the hybrid electric propulsion systems that GE is developing. It is also an important and necessary step in GE’s technology programs with NASA to develop a hybrid electric propulsion system for flight testing later this decade and for entry into service in the mid-2030s.
The system’s altitude integration test began in June 2021 and was completed earlier this year at NASA’s Electric Aircraft Test Bed (NEAT) facility in Sandusky, Ohio. To represent the right and left sides of an aircraft engine, two sets of a hybrid electrical system were used in conditions up to 45,000 feet, simulating the electrical loads needed to optimize the engines and propel and power a plane.
“We are making aviation history by developing the technology to help make hybrid electric flight possible for everyday commercial air travel,” said Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of the engineering at GE Aerospace.
“GE is proud to be a longtime partner of NASA in the development of new aerospace technologies. Together, we have just reached a key milestone by successfully concluding the world’s first test of a high-power, high-voltage hybrid electrical system in altitude conditions. We appreciate the collaboration to make this possible. This is one of many steps in our journey with NASA to demonstrate a hybrid electric aircraft engine system for a more sustainable future of flight,” Ali said.
The NEAT facility where the tests took place is a reconfigurable NASA testbed used to design, develop, assemble and test aircraft electrical power systems.
“NASA’s unique NEAT facility is the only test site capable of simultaneously delivering both high electric power and high altitude conditions in an area large enough to accommodate a full electric powertrain, and we are proud to see this test with GE come to a successful conclusion. This facility has become highly sought after by GE and others in the aviation community, and is critical to supporting the agency’s goal of developing technologies that will enable and support future climate change adaptation initiatives,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator of NASA’s Aeronautical Mission Research Branch.
“At NEAT, we are able to test a high voltage powertrain system under flight altitude conditions without leaving the ground, reducing major safety risks in a timely manner. With ground testing complete, we are now well positioned to move into the next phase of our agreement with GE, a true flight demonstration of an electric aircraft,” Pearce added.
About the Altitude Integration Test
The components have been tested independently and as an integrated system. In addition, several operational modes were evaluated, including side-to-side power transfer, electrical assistance to a simulated motor, and aircraft power generation. The implementation of energy storage was also simulated.
MW measures electrical power and kV measures the electrical potential difference between two points, which is equivalent to the pressure used to move a fluid through a pipe. A kV-class system enables high efficiency and specific power. Successfully testing a kV system in altitude conditions is important because the interaction of voltage and environment is different at higher altitudes than on the ground. kV-class systems are much more difficult to manage at altitude.
What’s next for hybrid electric flight
Future testing will continue as part of the Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) project announced by NASA in September 2021, including testing of the hybrid electric system connected to GE’s CT7 turboprops. Eventually, this will lead to a flight test later this decade of the hybrid electric system on a CT7-powered Saab 340B aircraft.
Boeing partners with GE to support EPFD flight testing. Boeing and its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences provide aircraft services, aircraft modification, aircraft integration and flight testing. This work includes nacelle fabrication, cockpit interface design and software, aircraft-level performance analysis, and systems integration.
GE Sustainable Development Goals
More information on how GE is helping the aviation industry decarbonize, including a link to GE’s 2021 Sustainability Report, is available at www.GEAviation.com/Future-of-Flight. The recently released sustainability report outlines GE’s approach to achieving its 2050 net zero ambition for products sold, including guiding principles, progress to date and planned investments in maturing new technologies.
Hybrid electric drive technologies can help reduce fuel consumption, reduce CO emissions2 emissions and optimize engine performance. Electrification technologies developed by GE are also compatible with sustainable aviation fuel, hydrogen, advanced engine architectures such as open fan and new compact engine core designs.
*Calculated based on the average annual electricity consumption of residential customers in the United States, available from the US Energy Information Administration.
GE Aviation, an operating unit of GE (NYSE: GE), becomes GE Aerospace. The company is a leading global supplier of jet engines, components and systems for commercial and military aircraft with a global service network to support these offerings. With an installed base of 39,400 commercial aircraft engines and 26,200 military aircraft engines, the company plays a vital role in shaping the future of aviation.