Daher’s EcoPulse demonstrator aircraft has performed its first hybrid-electric flight with its Safran-supplied electric motors powered by batteries and a turbogenerator.
Taking off from the airframer’s Tarbes base in southern France at 10:32 local on 29 November, the sortie lasted around 100min.
During the mission, the flight-test crew validated the performance of the aircraft’s flight-control computer, high-voltage battery pack, distributed electric propulsion and hybrid electric turbogenerator.
“We confirmed today that this disruptive propulsion system works in flight, which paves the way for more sustainable aviation,” says Eric Dalbies, Safran’s executive vice-president strategy and chief technology officer.
Developed as part of a French government-funded project, the EcoPulse is the result of a collaboration between Airbus, Daher and Safran.
Based around a TBM 940 airframe and its Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engine, the EcoPulse gains six 45kW Safran EngineUs electric motors on its wings, plus an Airbus-supplied high-voltage battery.
The 300kW-rated battery powers four of the six electric motors while a 100kW auxiliary power unit supplies energy to the other pair.
While the EcoPulse has previously flown for 10h to assess its handling characteristics following the integration of the electric motors and the rest of the distributed propulsion system, power has been supplied solely by the PT6 powerplant.
“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 Sabine Klauke, chief technical officer at Airbus.
“The flight campaign will give Daher invaluable data on the effectiveness of the onboard technologies, including distributed propulsion, high-voltage batteries and hybrid-electric propulsion,” adds Pascal Laguerre, chief technology officer at Daher.
Daher earlier this year launched its own programme to develop a hybrid-electric aircraft for service entry in 2027. The results of the EcoPulse flight tests will help to inform that aircraft’s configuration.