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Wright Electric Spirit electric airplane
Image courtesy of Wright Electric.


Wright Electric Shares Details About Passenger Plane Retrofit & 2-Megawatt Motor Testing

Steve Hanley recently covered Wright Electric’s November passenger aircraft retrofit news here. The company’s retrofit work builds upon testing of its 2-megawatt (~2,700 horsepower) motor. The electrification of aviation is important because aviation is a source of air pollution, including climate change emissions. Additionally, the extraction, transportation and handling of fossil fuels is harmful and problematic.

Jeff Engler, the company’s CEO, answered over a dozen questions about retrofitting and electric motor testing for CleanTechnica.

What is the range of the Wright Spirit, what is the size of the batteries and the battery chemistry?

The range of the Wright Spirit will be for one to two hour flights, approximately 800 miles. You can read more about the energy storage options here in this white paper.

Why was the BAe 146 platform selected to outfit with your powertrain and batteries?

The BAe 146 is a proven 100-passenger aircraft and is ideal for flights of less than one hour, including the world’s key city pairs, such as Frankfurt-Paris, New York-Boston, and Seoul-Jeju. Flights of one hour or less make up approximately 40% of flights in the case of our partner easyJet.

Where will the Wright Spirit first begin operating, and when?

Wright intends to have the Wright Spirit EIS in 2026 and Wright is focused on locations that have flights of less than 800 mile ranges.

How much quieter is an all-electric plane at takeoff, in flight, and while landing, than a jet or conventional propeller plane?

An all-electric plane is anticipated to be quieter than conventional planes, though Wright is still determining how much quieter.

What is the use life of the batteries, and can they be repurposed for second life applications?

This will depend on our energy storage, which you can read about in the white paper linked above.

How long does it take to charge the batteries?

This will depend on the energy storage method.

How much might the Wright Spirit save in reduced fuel costs by using electricity instead of conventional aviation fuel?

The reduced cost of flying the Wright Spirit will come from replacing jet fuel, including the potential increases to cost due to carbon taxation. For example, easyJet data shows that 31% of operating costs are due to jet fuel.

What is the potential CO2 reduction per flight?

Wright aims to make each flight net zero emissions.

What are the applications for the 2 MW motor?

There are several applications for the 2 MW motor, including regional aircraft, single-aisle aircraft, turbogenerators, and industrial equipment.

What are the advantages of having such a large electric motor?

Large and lightweight electric motors enable low-emissions aviation because they facilitate the use of batteries or fuel cells.

What is the testing process and how long does it last?

The testing process includes ground testing in 2021-2022 and flight testing in 2023-2024.

What results are you expecting?

Our target power to weight ratio is 10 kW/kg for the motor.

Do you have customers waiting who will integrate your motors into their planes, or are you developing electric motors only for your own?

Wright is in discussions with several potential customers both for use in planes as well as alternate uses. 

When do you think your electric motors might be operational for regular flights carrying passengers, or will they be used on cargo planes first?

We are targeting 2030 for entry into service of our clean sheet aircraft. Stay tuned for other updates as well. 

How much more energy efficient could your electric motors be when compared with fossil-fuel-based ones?

Though more research is still to be done, Wright expects our electric motors can be up to twice as efficient when compared with traditional fossil-fuel based engines. 

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