Rolls-Royce, the renowned British engineering company, has recently announced the development of a new small gas turbine engine designed specifically to power hybrid-electric flight.
This innovative engine is part of a larger turbogenerator system that is being developed for the advanced air mobility market, catering to applications such as electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for urban air mobility and commuter aircraft seating up to 19 passengers.
One of the key advantages of the Rolls-Royce turbogenerator system is its ability to complement the existing Rolls-Royce Electrical propulsion portfolio by providing an on-board power source with scalable power offerings ranging from 500kW to 1200kW.
This significant power capability enables extended range operations using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and, in the future, through hydrogen combustion. Ultimately, this will unlock new, longer routes that currently exceed the capabilities of electric battery-powered aircraft.
Olaf Otto, President of Electrical at Rolls-Royce, expressed his confidence in the company’s position as a leading provider of all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for Advanced Air Mobility.
The upcoming Pass-To-Test (PTT) phase for their small engine, which will power the turbogenerator system, marks a crucial milestone in this endeavor.
Otto emphasized that this new product will allow customers to expand the range of electric flight and enable more passengers to travel farther on low to net zero emissions aircraft.
Significant improvements for small gas turbine
The development of the turbogenerator system represents a successful combination of Rolls-Royce’s expertise in both electrical and gas turbine technologies.
Leveraging recent advancements, the new combustion engine achieves a significant improvement in efficiency for small gas turbines. This versatile turbogenerator system can be employed in serial or parallel hybrid applications.
It is well-suited to not only recharge batteries but also provide direct energy to electrical propulsion units, allowing aircraft to seamlessly switch between power sources during flight.
The research and development of this groundbreaking technology have received partial funding from the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, highlighting the importance and support for sustainable aviation initiatives.
In the upcoming months, the engine will undergo testing using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and will be utilized for the commissioning of Rolls-Royce’s test facility in Dahlewitz.
The Rolls-Royce Power Gearbox test facility has been specifically modified to accommodate the testing of this new engine, ensuring its technical attributes are thoroughly validated.
Rolls-Royce is at the forefront of developing complete power and propulsion systems for all-electric and hybrid-electric applications.
Their innovative systems incorporate cutting-edge technologies, ranging from power generation and energy storage to power electronics, control systems, and electric motors.
Rolls-Royce’s new small gas turbine engine, part of the turbogenerator system, brings significant advancements to the field of hybrid-electric flight.
With its scalable power offerings, extended range capabilities, and the ability to use sustainable aviation fuels, this technology holds tremendous promise for the future of air mobility.
Rolls-Royce’s commitment to innovation and their dedication to providing efficient and sustainable power solutions position them as a leading force in the advancement of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft.