Electra Tests Hybrid-Electric Propulsion System

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Electra.aero announced last week that it has successfully completed a fully integrated test of its hybrid-electric propulsion system. According to the company, the technology was developed for its nine-passenger electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft concept. Propulsion system testing was conducted at Electra’s facility in Switzerland.

“Tightly coupling airframe and propulsion systems is the hallmark of Electra’s unique and scalable approach to providing net-zero emissions for regional and transport-category aircraft by 2050,” said JP Stewart, Electra vice president and general manager. “Electra’s eSTOL aircraft uses this patent-pending technology for the urban and regional aircraft market, allowing a reduction of the 5 billion tons of CO2 created by inefficient ground transport in personal cars every year.”

Electra says its hybrid system, which is currently being integrated into the company’s demonstrator aircraft, uses “a combination of high-power battery packs and a turbogenerator to power eight electric motors and propellers.” For its nine-passenger hybrid eSTOL design, Electra is targeting a 400-NM range, 2,500-pound payload and 175-knot cruise speed. The company is participating in initiatives including NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign and the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program.

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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. “Electra says its hybrid system, which is currently being integrated into the company’s demonstrator aircraft, uses “a combination of high-power battery packs and a turbogenerator to power eight electric motors and propellers.”

    Turbogenerator?

    So its a gas turbine engine with added weight and expense and complexity?

  2. “unique and scalable approach to providing net-zero emissions”
    Probably an electric motor driving a generator producing electricity to drive the motors hooked up to some propellers . . . and there ya go. “net-zero emissions” Heck . . . I thought that idea up as a kid. Dad told me it wouldn’t work so I didn’t pursue it.

  3. If the batteries are recharged on the ground, using good Swiss hydro electricity, (no means sure, the country suddenly realised this year how dependent on Russian gas it is), it seems one auxiliary power unit sized turbine, plus batteries, will be enough to turn eight props, instead of one large turboprop or two medium sized ones. So kerosene burn and CO2 produced cut by 50%? Probably not more. Still better than nothing.

    • The batteries are undoubtedly charged on the ground, and are probably well drained during the power intensive “V” part of the eVTOL cycle. The advantage of hybrid power is that the batteries can be recharged during level flight when the vertical thrusters aren’t required, to be ready for use during the vertical landing phase.

      This all means that you can substantially reduce the size (and weight!) of your battery pack.

        • I didn’t realize it before, but this already ditches ‘V’ in favor of ‘S’ and does use a short runway. Their secret sauce is to use full width blown flaps, with four props on each wing distributing the propwash along the width of each wing.

  4. From the looks of it, that contraption will never fly. Ah, I say it’s a joke son. Anyone who minimally follows the international news knows that Europe is in a deep energy crunch and headed for an even bigger one, and will be using coal, methane, diesel, wood and just about any combustible material they can find to heat their homes run their factories and charge their electric cars. Cars that themselves may be free of direct carbon dioxide emissions if you do not account for all the petroleum energy it takes to produce them and their batteries and the charging source energy. The whole concept of a fossil fuel free energy world is so far from reality and practicality that it just as farfetched and impossible as pregnancy in men.

  5. Somehow I fail to see how a 9 passenger commuter aircraft is going to replace the approximately 150 million personal cars and light trucks on US highways. It’s not like I am going to take it to run errands or even drive it to work. Some of these PR guys get a little carried away with their hyperbole. Plus, he is assuming that we will all be using that mythical “sustainable aviation fuel” that is supposed to replace the roughly 300 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel burned in the US every day. I’m still waiting for the plan on how we accomplish that without using all of our available farm land to produce fuel instead of food.

  6. Another stupid (or intentional) misuse of the term “net-zero”. It isn’t truly net-zero unless the source of ALL its power is “carbon-free”, and nothing practical is, except nuclear power, which the European greenies don’t like.
    Unless they’re going to scam us with the “carbon offset” fraud, that turbine engine is going to produce some CO2 emissions, whether they admit it or not.
    Are that many people really dumb enough to buy into this crap?
    The story might be reasonably interesting if they come up with a decently efficient hybrid setup, which is how “electric” aviation will HAVE to be done for the foreseeable future. The only other alternative is a quick-change battery pack that can be swapped out as quickly as a liquid-fueled airplane can refuel. Then multiple packs can be swapped around and charged while the airplane is flying on one of them.
    Otherwise, it’ll fly once, and sit for 12-18 hours recharging (NOT “carbon free”) while the plane is useless.