Electric airliner startup Wright unveiled a 2-megawatt engine that it believes could electrify the aviation industry by powering large-scale electric passenger planes, a report by TechCrunch explains.
The main obstacle to large electric airliners so far is the fact that the extra power electric motors must exert to produce enough lift makes battery packs prohibitively heavy. “Scaling electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems from general aviation to larger aircraft applications requires much more powerful and lighter weight altitude-capable electric motor technology,” Wright explains in a press release.
Wright’s new 2-megawatt motor is a step in the right direction as it produces the equivalent of 2,700 horsepower and displays an efficiency of around 10 kilowatts per kilogram. This marks a “2x improvement over megawatt-scale motors being demonstrated in the industry,” the company says. Wright founder Jeff Engler also explained to TechCrunch that the motor is “substantially lighter than anything out there.”
Electrifying the aviation industry
Wright is designing a plane of its own called the Wright 1 aircraft, though it’s also working hard to ensure that its engines can be retrofitted into existing aircraft. The Wright 1 will be a hybrid-electric aircraft that will utilize the company’s efficient propulsion system alongside a hydrogen engine for added range and power for lift.
“Zero-emissions commercial aircraft are the future, and Wright is focused on delivering on the promise,” Engler explained. “Wright is excited to begin testing of our 2 MW electric powertrain and preparing for flight qualification in the near future.”
On its website, Wright explains that its first single-aisle aircraft will be a 186-seat airliner with an 800-mile (1,287-km) range. It will also feature several of its proprietary motors on each wing for redundancy purposes, as well as for stability. The company, which has received funding from NASA and the U.S. Military, says it aims to fly passengers by 2030.
While eVTOL aircraft, such as Joby Aviation’s flying taxi may soon take passengers on short-haul passenger flights, the aviation industry is still a long way off seeing electric long-haul flights. Wright Electric aims to get us there one step at a time, while companies such as commercial supersonic airliner firm Boom Supersonic are taking a different approach. In a March interview, the company’s Senior VP Brian Durrence told IE that it aims to run its supersonic fleet “on 100% sustainable alternative fuels.” Either way, a concerted effort is desperately needed to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon emissions, which are responsible for 2.4 percent of all human carbon emissions.