Wright has Begun Testing our 2 MW Aviation-Grade Motor for Transport-Category Zero-Emissions Aircraft

Wright is excited to announce that we’ve begun testing our 2 MW (~2,700 horsepower) motor for electric aircraft. It’s the largest propulsive aerospace motor in existence to our knowledge — about 2x larger than other propulsive motors in testing. It will be a key building block towards zero emissions aviation for Boeing and Airbus sized planes. We’ve built this motor alongside contracts from NASA, the US Department of Energy, the US Air Force, and the US Army.

Why this matters: Boeing and Airbus sized planes account for more than 90% of the carbon footprint of aerospace (source: Roland Berger). As the aerospace industry decarbonizes, a key step is building and validating new propulsion technology at the scale of Boeing and Airbus sized planes. In May we announced we’d begun testing our high efficiency inverter, and today we’re announcing we’ve begun testing our high power motor. Wright’s motor can work in 150+ passenger aircraft in a 10-motor-array format, and it can also be used in smaller 50-passenger turboprop aircraft in a two-motor-array format. Low and zero emissions commercial aircraft are the future, and Wright is focused on delivering on this future.

Wright 2MW Aerospace Motor (with Coke can for size reference)

Scaling electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems from general aviation to larger aircraft applications requires much more powerful and lighter weight altitude-capable electric motor technology. The purpose of the motor is to convert the DC power from batteries or fuel cells into propulsive thrust that is compatible with industry standard ducted fan and propeller systems for commercial aircraft. The level of power and weight demonstrated with our new 2 MW motor will become the baseline for any new electric aircraft and is a key technology in our megawatt system. The motor is being designed to be scalable from 500 kw to 4 MW systems and the Wright motor targets the following levels of performance:

  • 2 MW of propulsive power — a 2x improvement over megawatt scale motors being demonstrated in the industry and designed to be scalable from 500 kW to 4 MW for different applications.
  • 10 kW/kg specific power — a 2x improvement compared to available aircraft propulsion motors. This allows application of the motor up to the single-aisle class aircraft to enable electric and hybrid-electric flight with little to no emissions.
  • Wright will use 10 2MW motors on its Wright 1 aircraft — that’s a total of 20 MW, which is as powerful as an A320 Airbus aircraft that major airlines operate today. A two-motor system could power a 50-seat aircraft such as the ATR-42. On an A320-sized plane, Wright’s motors will enable 10 more passengers per flight than a plane using other industry motors.

Key technologies that enable our motor to reach these high levels of performance include:

  • High performance thermal system.
  • Operation at higher voltage than normal for aerospace.
  • Insulation system that permits the higher voltage.
  • High performance inverter that allows us to operate at high frequency with low loss.

The motor will now proceed to the next phase of development including integration with an in-house developed highly efficient inverter, high altitude chamber testing, and qualification for flight readiness. Wright Electric is excited to demonstrate our first system and is committed to push the development of the motor and inverter to meet the requirements of the aerospace community with progressive development over the next two years.

Experts at NASA, the US Department of Energy, the US Army, and the US Air Force have aided this effort through technical guidance, funding, and standards and regulations support. Organizations like these are leading pioneering efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of aerospace, and we are thrilled to work with them.