VerdeGo Aero has validated the “Iron Bird” prototype of its diesel-hybrid electric generator system at power output levels above 150 kilowatts, the company announced last week.
VerdeGo Aero CEO Eric Bartsch revealed in August that the company had started initial test runs of the ground-based development hardware, which incorporates a Continental Aerospace Technologies CD-265 high efficiency diesel aviation engine burning Jet A fuel. VerdeGo said the prototype is being used to refine the weight, power output, cooling systems, and reliability of the conformal hybrid systems now being engineered for aerospace customers, including eVTOL developers.
“Getting the Iron Bird running not only validates the operating economics of our diesel-hybrid power generation system, it also enables us to perform hardware-in-the-loop simulations using mission profiles from our airframe customers,” stated David Eichstedt, director of advanced concepts, in a press release. “It’s a powerful way for customers to validate the economics of their aircraft design’s value proposition using real powertrain hardware without leaving the ground.”
VerdeGo said its hybrid generator can be combined with battery packs to enable peak power output up to 0.5 MW, while modular twin generator systems can be stacked for 360-kW continuous and 1-MW peak output. The company claims its diesel-hybrid system consumes around 40 percent less fuel than competing turbine-hybrid offerings, while providing between four and eight times the endurance of comparable battery-only powertrains.
Compatibility with Jet A also means the hybrid system will be compatible with bio-Jet substitute fuels, VerdeGo added.
The company said it is able to provide the equivalent of a traditional engine deck for interested parties willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Its proprietary software uses data from the full-scale hardware testing and includes a hybrid simulation model for airframers to use that includes both the hybrid generator and the battery solution that goes with it, VerdeGo said.
At an Aviation Week panel on urban air mobility (UAM) in August, Bartsch argued that hybrid-electric systems represent a more promising near-term solution for UAM than relying on batteries alone. Even for short-distance urban air taxi missions, he said, hybridization could enable the back-to-back missions and operational flexibility necessary to make UAM business models work.
“It’s not that batteries won’t play a role, but it’s a very difficult challenge to use a battery-electric system to deliver that mission in a useful, certifiable, profitable way,” Bartsch said.