The EcoPulse hybrid-electric distributed propulsion aircraft demonstrator took its first flight on November 29, 2023, near Lourdes, France. (Image courtesy of Daher.)

Like so many industries, aviation is looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions and become increasingly sustainable. Engineers are working to lower fuel consumption and to find alternative fuels or power sources that don’t generate environmental pollution. To that end, Daher, Safran, and Airbus have been working together to develop a hybrid-electric aircraft concept, the EcoPulse, which recently took its first test flight.

A Good First Step

The EcoPulse took its maiden flight in hybrid-electric mode taking off from Tarbes Airport near Lourdes, France, in late November. The Daher reports that the flight lasted around 100 minutes, during which the demonstrator put its e-Propellers (jointly powered by a battery and a turbogenerator) to the test. The flight also tested the craft’s flight control computer, high-voltage battery pack, distributed electric propulsion, and the hybrid-electric turbogenerator.

Prior to the hybrid flight, the EcoPulse had extensive ground tests and 10 hours of flight tests with the electrical system deactivated.

“We confirmed today that this disruptive propulsion system works in flight, which paves the way for more sustainable aviation,” says Safran Executive Vice President Strategy and Chief Technology Officer, Eric Dalbiès. “The lessons learned from upcoming flight tests will feed into our technology roadmap and strengthen our position as leader in future all-electric and hybrid-electric propulsive systems.”

About The EcoPulse

First unveiled at the 2019 Paris Air Show, the EcoPulse has a disruptive propulsion system that allows a single independent electrical source to power multiple electric motors located throughout the aircraft. The goal of the project is to cut carbon emissions and reduce noise.

The EcoPulse is based on a Daher TBM platform and has six integrated electric thrusters (e-Propellers) along its wings. The propulsion system’s power sources are an electric generator driven by a gas turbine (turbogenerator) and a high-energy-density battery pack. A Power Distribution and Rectifier Unit protects the high-voltage network and distributes electrical power and high-voltage power harnesses. The aircraft’s battery pack is rated at 800 volts DC and supplies up to 350 kilowatts of power.

“This is a major milestone for our industry and we’re proud to have powered the EcoPulse demonstrator first flight with our new battery systems,” says Airbus Chief Technical Officer Sabine Klauke. “High-energy-density batteries will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions from aviation, whether for light aircraft, advanced air mobility, or large hybrid-electric aircraft. Projects like EcoPulse are key to accelerating progress in electric and hybrid-electric flight, and a cornerstone of our aim to decarbonise the aerospace industry as a whole.”

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Source: Daher