Rolls Starts Testing New Hybrid-electric Propulsion System

 - June 3, 2021, 9:20 AM
Rolls-Royce has started testing various elements of its planned 2.5 MW hybrid-electric propulsion system for future regional airliners. (Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce has started testing the first elements of the most powerful hybrid-electric aero power and propulsion system in aerospace at a newly renovated testbed, the company said Thursday. The tests support the 2.5-megawatt (MW) Power Generation System 1 (PGS1) demonstrator program for future regional aircraft.

Rolls-Royce has begun testing the AE2100 engine element and specialist controls and thermal management system, supported by a system integration generator, at its Testbed 108 in Bristol, UK. It plans “later this year” to bring together a fully operational generator and a 3,000-volt power electronics system, now completing testing at Rolls’s facility in Trondheim, Norway, to start full PGS1 system testing.

The generator can apply to either hybrid-electric propulsion systems or as part of a “more-electric” system for larger aircraft. Rolls said PGS1 forms an important part of its sustainability strategy, which includes developing innovative electrical power and propulsion systems, as well as further improving gas turbine performance and promoting the use of sustainable aviation fuels.

“Our PGS1 tests will lead the way in finding out what this new generation of hybrid-electric propulsion system is capable of delivering,” said Rolls-Royce director of aerospace technology and future programs Alan Newby. “For example, our generator is about the size of a beer keg but it needs to produce enough electricity to power around 2,500 homes and do so continuously. By doing these tests we will be able to validate our digital modeling and find out precisely what is physically and technically possible.”

Once ground tested, PGS1 will provide a technology basis for any future hybrid aircraft program requiring MW power, said Rolls. The UK Aerospace Technology Institute’s MegaFlight project has supported both Testbed 108 and PGS1, while the EU Clean Sky 2 program supports the 2.5-MW electrical generator, motor, and power electronics design in Trondheim.