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Rolls-Royce plans new hybrid-electric flight demonstrator

Rolls-Royce is collaborating with German partners to develop a hybrid-electric flight demonstrator using its M250 propulsion system.

Rolls-Royce M250 demonstrator
Rolls-Royce said its collaboration with APUS and BTU will “enable one of the world’s most comprehensive hybrid aerospace turbine engine development and integration programs.” Rolls-Royce Image

The company is teaming with the aviation engineering company APUS and the Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU) Cottbus-Senftenberg on the three-year project, which is being supported by the government of Brandenburg, Germany, and managed by the Investment Bank of the State of Brandenburg.

Rolls-Royce said project will integrate an M250 gas turbine engine — used on more than 170 models of conventional helicopters and airplanes — with a high-energy-density battery system, electric generators, power converters, and an advanced power management and control system. The 500-kW to 1-MW system will be installed on an APUS i-5 airplane to demonstrate the application of the technology for a 4,000-kilogram (8,815-pound) conventional take-off and landing flight test vehicle.

Although this project will not involve vertical flight, Rolls-Royce noted that its hybrid M250 system — which has already been ground-tested in series hybrid, parallel hybrid, and turbo-electric operating modes — could also be used on eVTOL aircraft and hybrid helicopters in the future. The company unveiled a concept for such a hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft at the Farnborough International Airshow in 2018.

Rolls-Royce hybrid eVTOL
Rolls-Royce’s concept for a hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft powered by the M250. Rolls-Royce Image

“This is an important step forward in developing propulsion systems that will enable a new class of quieter and cleaner air transport,” stated Dr. Dirk Geisinger, director Business Aviation and chairman Rolls-Royce Deutschland. “At the same time, this will further strengthen our Dahlewitz site, which is one of the hubs for the advancement of hybrid-electric propulsion in our company.”

BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg will be responsible for electric hybrid system functional modeling, dynamic modeling of system performance, and electro-mechanical system test support. APUS will supply the project’s iron bird test airframe and installation hardware design, and partner on the hybrid system installation, with the aim of starting experimental flights after 2021.

“We are keen to take this project forward and to achieve experimental flight clearance together,” stated APUS CEO Phillip Scheffel. “Receiving funding from Brandenburg Government helps greatly to realize our exciting plans and enable significant learnings for a range of other electro-hybrid aircraft systems.”

The M250 hybrid power pack complements the AE 2100 2.5-MW system being developed for larger aircraft, which is being tested with Airbus on the E-Fan-X demonstrator platform.

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