Safran Tests 'More Electric' Turboprop

 - February 17, 2023, 6:56 AM
Safran has been ground-testing a hybrid electric turboprop engine concept that could reduce fuel consumption on regional aircraft by 18 percent. (Image: Safran)

Safran this week completed ground tests with a “more electric” variant of its Tech TP turboprop technology demonstrator. The project, which is exploring new propulsion options for future regional fixed-wing aircraft, is being led by the French aerospace group's helicopter engines division and is based on its Ardiden-3 family of turboshaft engines for super-midsize rotorcraft.

The ground testing at Safran’s Tarnos site in France is part of the European Union-funded Clean Sky program to achieve net zero carbon emissions in aviation. Safran's TP Tech engine incorporates technologies from the Achieve project, which is focused on “advanced mechatronics devices for a novel turboprop electric starter-generator and health monitoring system.”

According to the company, the technology demonstrator includes a more powerful electrical motor generator that is integrated with the Tech TP propeller and accessory gearbox. This device comprises an electric motor, an electronic power converter, and associated controllers.

The main objective is to drive the propeller electrically, enabling new operating modes such as taxiing and inflight auxiliary power, without using power directly from the aircraft’s main turbine engines. This is expected to deliver an 18 percent cut in fuel consumption and reduced CO2 emissions.

Projections for the TP Tech engine’s performance are based on an analysis conducted by Piaggio Aerospace using a virtual testbed for a 19-seat commuter airliner. The intention is that it would be operated using an updated throttle lever design integrated with the full authority digital engine and propeller control computer.

“Leveraging hybrid-electric technologies is an important pillar in our strategy to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions,” commented Didier Nicoud, executive v-p for engineering with Safran Helicopter Engines. “Achieve Tech TP also paves the way for a new Clean Aviation demonstrator managed by the HEART [Hybrid-Electric propulsion system for regional Aircraft] consortium. By 2025, HEART, bringing together 38 partners, with Safran Helicopter Engines as a technical coordinator, plans to ground test a hybrid electric propulsion system intended for regional turboprop aircraft.”

Achieve is being coordinated by the UK’s University of Nottingham and supported by Nema and Power System Technology. The project involves more than 20 partners in total.