Wright tests its 2-megawatt electric engines for passenger planes – TechCrunch

Aerospace, like the automotive industry has its sights set on becoming electric. However, flying with battery-powered engines can be more difficult than rolling. Wright is one of the startups that are trying to change the math and make electrified flying possible at larger scales than small aircraft. Its 2-megawatt engine could power large-scale, electric passenger planes.
Although electric cars are proving to be hugely successful, they also have an advantage over planes in that the lift they produce is sufficient to maintain their mass in the air. The fundamental problem that electric planes are not able to fly is the fact that they require heavy batteries to carry them.

To solve this problem, efficiency is the most important thing. This refers to how much thrust can per watt of power. It is difficult to reduce the mass of batteries. Therefore, it is better to invent other things: materials, airframes, and the engine. This is an internal combustion engine that is huge and heavy.

Although electric engines are lighter and simpler than those powered by fuel, they can still fly. However, you must achieve a certain efficiency to be able to fly. A jet that burns a thousand gallons per second of fuel would not be able to hold enough fuel to propel it off. Companies like Wright and H3x are able to create electric engines that produce more thrust with the same amount stored energy.

H3x is a small aircraft company that will likely take flight sooner than H3x, but Wright founder Jeff Engler said that commercial passenger jets are the best way to reduce aerospace's carbon footprint. Wright plans to build one. They don't have to build the entire thing from scratch, contrary to their company name.

We are not reinventing the idea of the wing or the fuselage or anything similar. Engler said that what changes is what propels an aircraft forward. Engler compared it to electric cars in that most of the car doesn't change when you go electrical, mainly those parts that have been operating in the same manner in principle for over a century. It is not easy to integrate a new propulsion system in a plane.

Wrights engine produces approximately 2,700 horsepower at a rate of 10 kilowatts to the kilogram. Engler said that it is the most powerful motor for electric aerospace and that it is significantly lighter than any other motor.

He explained that the engine's lightness is due to a ground-up design using a permanent magnet approach and an aggressive thermal strategy. An engine with a higher voltage than the one used for aerospace purposes, and an insulation system that matches it, can produce the power and efficiency required to fly a large aircraft.

Wright is working with established aircraft makers to develop a new plane. The hybrid electric would combine the lightweight, efficient propulsion system with the power of a liquid fuel motor to create the first craft. Although hydrogen is more complicated, it allows for an easier transition to electric flight. It also reduces emissions and fuel consumption.

The Wrights motors could be attached to the wings of each aircraft. This would provide at least two benefits. First, redundancy. Two huge engines on a plane are built to fly even if one of them fails. One failure is not nearly as catastrophic if you have six to eight engines. Therefore, you don't need twice the engine. The second benefit is noise reduction and stability that come with multiple engines that can be controlled individually or together to reduce vibrations and counteract turbulence.

The motor is currently in laboratory testing at sea-level. Once it passes the tests (sometime next year is the plan), it will then be run in an altitude simulation chamber, and finally at 40,000 feet. It is a long-term project. However, the industry does not change overnight.

Engler spoke out about the support and enthusiasm the company has received from NASA and the military. Both have offered considerable material, cash and expertise. Engler was open to the possibility that the company's engine could end up in a bombing drone. However, what he has seen and is striving for is more in line the endless personnel and cargo flights that the defense department. It turns out that the military is a major polluter and they want to reduce their fuel consumption.

Engler said, "Think about how the world changed when we switched from propellers and jets." This revolutionized the way an airplane works. The entire industry can be reshaped by this new propulsion technology.