Rolls-Royce is developing a new turbogenerator technology, including a newly designed small engine for hybrid-electric use. The new system will be an onboard power source with different ranges of power and will be used in addition to the Rolls-Royce Electrical propulsion portfolio. The new system will also provide an enhanced range with SAF (sustainable aviation fuels) and, in the future, through hydrogen combustion as it becomes available.
“Rolls-Royce will be the leading provider of all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for Advanced Air Mobility and will scale this technology over time to larger platforms. I would like to thank the German Government for their support. As part of our strategy, we are looking at offering the complete sustainable solution for our customers. This means extending routes that electric flight can support through our turbogenerator technology. This will advance hybrid-electric flight and mean more passengers will be able to travel further on low to net zero emissions aircraft." - Rob Watson, President, Rolls-Royce Electrical.
Rolls-Royce has teams of experts in Germany, Norway, and Hungary, working on developing the turbogenerator and its system integration. In addition, these experts are working on efficient power use during flight. After takeoff, the turbogenerator will recharge batteries or provide direct power to the propellers. This will enable aircraft to switch power sources in flight.
“Rolls-Royce is also set to build on our existing network to offer maintenance services for electrical systems. Furthermore, Rolls-Royce Power Systems is able to offer mtu microgrid solutions to support fast-charging of electric aircraft and deliver reliable, cost-effective, climate friendly and sustainable power to vertiports.” - Rob Watson, President, Rolls-Royce Electrical
With current battery technology, eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) and fixed-wing commuter aircraft will be able to fly short flights with all-electric propulsion. These short flights include flights in cities, between cities, and even island-hopping in places like Norway and the Scottish Isles. By developing turbogenerator technology, aircraft will be able to fly longer routes than aircraft solely powered by batteries.
A few weeks ago, at a conference in London, Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East stated that he believes that aircraft will be able to cross the Atlantic using 100% SAF starting next year. Currently, commercial aircraft are allowed to use a 50/50 blend of biofuel and conventional kerosene-based jet-fuel blend. Throughout the past year, Rolls-Royce has been testing its engines using 100% SAF, and Airbus has even performed an Airbus A380 flight using 100% SAF made from cooking oil.
"There have been thousands, probably tens of thousands of flights powered by sustainable aviation fuel. (...) What people do is use a small portion of sustainable fuels in a mix — 100% is technically possible. We're testing our engines right now." - Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce.
Although airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and aircraft engine manufacturers are hoping for lower emissions, there is not much SAF available worldwide. SAF accounts for 1% of aviation fuel used throughout the world. Many in the aviation world are committing to purchase SAF and SAF research/development. Still, it will be long before SAF is used significantly and as part of normal operations worldwide.
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