MIAMI – Wright Electric has reached a core component of its efforts to build electric propulsion that could drive a single-aisle airliner into commercial service by 2030. According to the company, late last week, it confirmed that it had conclusively tested the inverter that would transform DC current from batteries to AC in order to drive electric motors.
The inverter will now be integrated with a 2 MW motor that the Wright team is designing in-house in the next phase of production. As part of the preparation phase for flight testing, the firm expects to perform high-altitude chamber testing for the configuration within the next year. Besides, it will do trials at 40,000 feet in a real jet. According to AIN, Wright CEO Jeff Engler expects the flight testing to begin in 2024.
However, it is unknown if Wright would directly assemble the plane or contribute the technology to another airframer’s program. “We’re right now having those discussions about who’s going to do the manufacturing and things like that,” said Engler. “I think we’re heads down on proving out that the motors and inverters work on the ground and then at 40,000 feet, And I would say everything else is a future decision.”
Wright Electric’s Propulsion System
Wright engineers are working on a customizable propulsion system with a power level ranging from 500 kW to 20 MW. According to the manufacturer, the product would have a 99.5% performance rating. That is to say a six-fold increase over existing aviation inverters. Moreover, it will result in substantially lower heat exchange loads.
The novel propulsion system would have a power density of 30 kW/kg, according to Company’s statement released on May 6. compare to today’s technology that only produces between 10 and 20 kW/kg, such an improvement will save enough weight to accommodate an additional five to ten passengers on each flight in a conventional single-aisle aircraft.
According to Engler, Wright’s electric propulsion is suitable for complete electric, hybrid electric, or hydrogen propulsion systems. However, whichever form the end result takes, it would necessitate a design configuration that is vastly different from that of a traditional jet-fueled aircraft.
“We think of ourselves as experts in, number one, motors and inverters, and, number two, aerodynamically and efficiently configuring the airplane using those motors and inverters…If you look at, for example, a Tesla…a Tesla isn’t just a Mercedes where you take out the engine and you put electric motors. To the passenger, it’s the same, but under the hood, it’s very different.”
In the coming months, Engler said, the company expects to make further updates about its advanced propulsion system’s development. “The level of performance demonstrated with our new inverter will become the baseline for any new electric aircraft and is a key technology in our megawatt system,” he commented.
About Wright Electric
Engler and his teams founded the Albany, New York-based company in 2016 with the aim of developing an electric power system for a 186-seat airliner capable to fly 800-mile range. The firm claims to have had talks with EasyJet and VivaAerobus to determine production targets.
Moreover, It has concluded construction sites with NASA and the Department of Energy of the US government which provide ARPA-E service. In addition, Y Combinator and the Clean Energy Trust, as well as numerous venture capital firms and private investors, have backed the 15-person start-up.
Featured image: Wright Electric