NASA and GE aviation established a new partnership in October to develop a mega-watt class hybrid electric engine capable of powering a single aisle aircraft and the project has moved a step closer. Boeing has been chosen by GE aviation to modify the plane that will be used to test the propulsion system in air.
Naveed Hussain, Boeing’s chief technology officer and vice president and general manager of Boeing research and technology said “we’re pleased to contribute our extensive research and testing of hybrid electric propulsion systems … for a project that will no doubt be an important milestone on the path to more sustainable air travel”
GE’s foray into electric flying isn’t limited to the NASA’s project. Electrical systems were developed by GE for Boeing’s 787 and 777X passenger aircrafts, among other planes. GE Research scientists are also collaborating with the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) branch of the US Department of Energy to develop an electric-powered aircraft propulsion system.
The idea behind that system is to combine gasified biofuel and compressed air to generate electricity and heat, with the electricity spinning the engine fan and the heat exhaust being used to provide more propulsion, similar to how a combined-cycle power plant uses exhaust. The goal is to develop a system that is both powerful and light enough to keep a 175,000-pound commercial aeroplane and its 175 passengers airborne at all times.
GE is committed to decarbonizing flying, having pledged to become carbon neutral in its own operations by 2030 and then announcing a goal of becoming net zero by 2050.