UK-based global major power and propulsion systems and technologies group Rolls-Royce on Wednesday announced the development of turbogenerator technology, to advance the implementation of hybrid-electric flight. The development included a new small engine specifically designed for use in hybrid-electric systems.
The new technology would be scalable, with a power range between 500 kW and 1 200 kW. It would complement the group’s electrical propulsion systems portfolio. Designed to use sustainable aviation fuels, the turbogenerators would allow aircraft with electric engines to achieve longer ranges than was currently possible with purely electrically-powered aircraft, reliant on batteries. (All-electric aircraft were suitable for commuter aircraft making short flights, for example between islands and/or cities located close to each other, or for urban air mobility aircraft.) Later, they would be able to employ hydrogen as fuel.
The design of the turbogenerator system was being developed by engineers at Rolls-Royce facilities in Germany, Norway and Hungary, with financial support from Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. These engineers were also working on achieving smart power distribution during flight and system integration.
The turbogenerators could be used to recharge the batteries of an electric aircraft, following take-off, or directly drive the propellors. The aircraft would be able to switch between power sources while in flight.
“Rolls-Royce will be the leading provider of all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for Advanced Air Mobility and will scale this technology over time to larger platforms,” affirmed Rolls-Royce Electrical president Rob Watson. “I would like to thank the German government for their support. As part of our strategy, we are looking at offering the complete sustainable solution for our customers. This will advance hybrid-electric flight and mean more passengers will be able to travel further on low to net zero emissions aircraft. Rolls-Royce is also set to build on our existing network to offer maintenance services for electrical systems. Furthermore, Rolls-Royce Power Systems is able to offer mtu microgrid solutions to support fast charging of electric aircraft and deliver reliable, cost-effective, climate friendly and sustainable power to vertiports.” (Vertiports will be operating sites for urban air mobility ‘vehicles’, akin to heliports for helicopters.)