I met with the Safran team at the National Business Aviation Association–Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) event two weeks ago for the introduction of their newly revealed ENGINeUS aviation electric motors. I learned a little more about what the company is doing in the electric aviation world and how it plans to develop its technology for the future of our urban air mobility (UAM) future.
Safran Kicks Off New Aviation Electric Motor Portfolio
Safran just recently introduced this portfolio of aviation electric motors called ENGINeUS. The company will use two of the 45 kW ENGINeUS on the VoltAero Cassio 1. It was introduced at NBAA-BACE in Las Vegas, where I spoke with Hervé Blanc, Executive Vice President & General Manager of the Electrical Systems and Motors Division at Safran Electrical & Power, about the importance of this announcement.
Blanc told me that Safran has been investing in a portfolio of smart electric aviation motors and propulsion systems they call smart motors. The system is an elegant solution around a battery pack, a battery management system (BMS), and the electric motor with the propeller included. The company calls the overall system a BPMS – battery and power management system.
The electric motors range from 20 kW to 500 kW. They are air-cooled at up to 100 kW and oil-cooled thereafter to 500 kW. There is a high usage of carbon fiber to keep the weight of the overall system down.
As far as what types of batteries Safran was looking into, Blanc said they were looking into various chemistries but would not be developing batteries internally. So far, the work is around lithium-ion, lithium-sulfur, and future solid-state derivatives.
Safran acquired Zodiac a few years ago. The integrated company is focusing on crash testing the battery for high impact for aviation use.
Safran’s intelligent BPMS is modular and means an operator can swap out the electric motors with the same modules and could theoretically boost the output up to 1 MW.
As far as the VoltAero Cassio 1 electric aircraft sporting the Safran ENGINeUS 45, it will begin flying this month. Instead of choosing the route Ampaire did with its Electric EEL — one electric motor and one thermal engine — Safran chose two ENGINeUS 45 electric motors mounted forward-facing on the wings. This replaces a previous pair of earlier-generation electric motors used during the initial testing phase. The ENGINeUS 45 electric motors deliver 45 kW of continuous power with a peak of 70 kW. Safran is also providing installation and dedicated control electronics.
“Since our unveiling of ENGINeUS TM, we have worked daily to continually improve the motors’ exceptional performance, and we’ve just started their industrialization to address the emerging market of more-electric aircraft,” said Blanc.
Safran chose the VoltAero Cassio 1 testbed for its 4 to 9 passenger capacity. It will log 15 test flight hours. The final phase of the project will see the airframe’s original centerline front-facing internal combustion engine (ICE) and associated propeller replaced by an aerodynamic nose fairing with additional lithium-ion batteries inside. The aft-thermal engine will be replaced by VoltAero’s proprietary hybrid power module – three 60 kW high-performance EMRAX electric motors and a 250 horsepower (184 kW) thermal engine. The project aims to offer private owners, air taxis, charter companies, and commercial flight operators a point-to-point regional aircraft alternative to bigger jet-engined airplanes.
Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and CTO, said: “VoltAero is at the forefront in introducing a new era of safe, efficient and eco-friendly flight. With the use of ENGINeUS TM 45 motors, we will fully benefit from Safran’s cutting-edge technology in smart, efficient and optimized electric propulsion.”
Electric Aviation Has Taken Off, At Last
We’re happy to see the mainstream media getting excited about something we’ve been covering for the past 4 years. Electric aviation has taken off spectacularly in the past 6 years and is now counting about 215 different electric aviation projects.
We’ll continue to cover the electric aviation industry and its repercussions on tomorrow’s UAM. In the meantime, congratulations to Safran for a smart electric aviation motor portfolio.