Hard on the heels of last month’s proposed acquisition of Siemens’s electric and hybrid-electric aerospace propulsion “eAircraft” business, Rolls-Royce on Monday inked an agreement with the state of Brandenburg to create a so-called ecosystem for hybrid-electric drive systems for aircraft in the German region. The arrangement, which still needs to be formalized, marks another step in the UK engine manufacturer’s electrification strategy and its ambition to play a major role in what it describes as the “third era” of aviation.
The initiative aims to pioneer the development of hybrid-electric 400 to 1,000 kW propulsion systems and builds on Rolls-Royce’s existing cooperation with the Brandenburg Technical University (BTU) in Cottbus-Senftenberg, one of the four Rolls-Royce technology university centers in Germany. The OEM maintains a global network of 24 technology university centers and seven research centers, each addressing a key technology.
The state of Brandenburg and Rolls-Royce committed to co-fund the initiative over the next six years, though they did not disclose the terms of the proposed investment and cooperation. The formal launch of a program stands subject to appropriate approvals and regulatory clearances. The partners said they will agree on the program details before the end of 2019.
“Developing world-class hybrid electric power and propulsion systems represents a significant opportunity for Rolls-Royce, which we are pursuing globally with vigor and focus,” said Dirk Geisinger, director of business aviation and chairman of Rolls-Royce Deutschland. “With the acquisition of the Siemens eAircraft business, we are investing in Germany and Hungary already. Adding Brandenburg with the BTU and regional partners to that effort would be an exciting next step.”
For Dietmar Woidke, prime minister of the state of Brandenburg, “Establishing one of the most promising technologies of our time right here would represent a quantum leap for Brandenburg.”
Rolls-Royce is concentrating on three pillars to make aviation more sustainable: developing advances in the gas turbine engine; collaborating on the use of sustainable alternative fuel; and exploring radical alternatives such as electrification. Developing Brandenburg’s hybrid-electric capabilities, Rolls-Royce noted, would complement its electrical projects in the UK, as well as the electrical interests in the U.S. and Singapore and the activities of the Siemens eAircraft business.