Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) is the use of propulsors (propellers or fans) driven by electric motors to propel aircraft ranging from air taxis to subsonic transports. NASA is developing technology, aircraft concepts, test aircraft, and ground test facilities to turn this idea from science fiction to reality. Lessons learned will have a positive impact on the economy of the U.S.
As NASA continues to investigate the feasibility of hybrid and all-electric aircraft for future commercial use, several key electric power-related components and materials need to be developed or refined to meet the ambitious power goals established by the agency’s Advanced Air Transport Technology (AATT) Project. Read more…
NASA’s Current EAP Activities
EAP work is performed under four different projects addressing complementary aspects of this idea.
NASA’s EAP Plan
NASA has set forth a 30-year strategic plan for its activities. EAP is a method to address the goals in Thrust 4:
Implementation Plan Strategic Thrust 4 Goal
Transition to Alternative Propulsion and Energy
While high levels of aircraft and operational efficiency are required for the future, they will not be enough to produce absolute reductions in life cycle carbon emissions. Therefore, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) seeks first, to enable the use of alternative fuels, and second, to foster a fundamental shift to innovative aircraft propulsion systems that have the potential to produce very low levels of carbon emissions relative to the energy used. ARMD will coordinate with the DoD and FAA to perform research, leading to concepts and technology for alternative propulsive system architectures. Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) is also an enabler for enhancing the efficiency of transport-class aircraft, improving the economics for small, short-range aircraft, and developing new on-demand aviation systems. NASA will work with both the established transport aircraft and emerging new aviation market communities to address key research issues associated with the safe introduction and scaling of electrified aircraft propulsion.
Key Excerpts from the Thrust 4 Plan Related to EAP
Electrified aircraft propulsion concepts, employing a combination of conventional and electric power, represent one promising candidate approach for low-carbon propulsion in 2025 and beyond. These concepts employ the best power source or combination of sources to provide the power needed in various flight conditions, and they offer flexible options for airframe designers to reduce drag or achieve other desired attributes. ARMD has conducted system studies and drafted research plans for this promising approach, and more work is ongoing to understand the full range of options, benefits, and hurdles to implementation.
Outcome for 2015-2025: Introduction of Low-carbon Fuels for Conventional Engines and Exploration of Alternative Propulsion Systems. Over the next decade, sustainable alternative drop-in fuels will begin to make a difference in fleet carbon reduction beyond that from efficiency gains, and markets will begin to open for electrified small aircraft. At the same time, research will continue to develop a scientific understanding of combustion emissions and environmental impact in order to inform decisions on emissions standards.
Outcome for 2025-2035: Initial Introduction of Alternative Propulsion Systems. In this decade, advanced propulsion systems with optimized use of sustainable drop-in fuels that are economically produced in sufficient quantities will substantially reduce fleet carbon emissions, and certified small aircraft fleets enabled by electrified aircraft propulsion will provide new mobility options. The decade may also see an initial application of electrified aircraft propulsion on large aircraft.
Outcome for >2035: Introduction of Alternative Propulsion Systems to Aircraft of All Sizes. Beyond 2035, sustainable alternative drop-in fuel use is expected to be the norm for advanced, optimized gas turbines and alternative propulsion systems. The prevalence of small-aircraft fleets with electrified propulsion will provide improved economics, performance, safety, and environmental impact, while growth in fleet operations of large aircraft with cleaner, more efficient alternative propulsion systems will substantially contribute to carbon reduction
View the full NASA ARMD Strategic Plan.
Under parts of the Advanced Air Transport Technology (AATT) Project, NASA is investing in Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) research to improve the fuel efficiency, emissions, and noise levels in commercial transport aircraft. Turboelectric, partially turboelectric, and hybrid electric propulsion systems are the primary EAP configurations being evaluated for regional jet and larger aircraft. Read more…
The EAP team has a wide selection of resources available. Explore the link below to locate technical documents and presentations.