Franco-Italian airframer ATR is continuing to conduct feasibility studies for the Evo hybrid-electric evolution of its twin-turboprop airliner but is unlikely to formally launch the programme before 2025.

ATR in 2022 launched a request for information (RFI) process covering the propulsion system for the aircraft, which ran until the end of 2023, says Daniel Cuchet, the airframer’s senior vice-president of engineering.

ATR Eco nose-c-ATR

Source: ATR

ATR is targeting 20-30% CO2 reduction from next-generation turboprop

Cuchet declines to say which firms responded to the RFI but says they are “well-known worldwide engine manufacturers” capable of delivering powerplants with thermal power of around 4,000-5,000hp (2,980-3,730kW).

“There are not so many engine manufacturers that are capable of doing that at the right level of fuel efficiency and with the goal of having the engine on wing for a very long period,” he says.

Pratt & Whitney Canada is ATR’s incumbent engine supplier, with the latest generation of the ATR 42/72-600 powered by the PW127XT-M, which produces thermodynamic power of 3,360hp.

Cuchet acknowledges that future engines will be more powerful than those presently used but says they will allow for performance enhancement of the aircraft.

P&WC has been working on hybrid-electric propulsion systems and expects later this year to perform the first flight of a De Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 modified with a 2MW parallel hybrid powertrain, including a 1MW Collins Aerospace electric motor.

Cuchet says ATR is “particularly happy” with the level of engagement from the engine makers so far. Following a review of the RFI submissions at the end of 2023, the airframer will later this year issue a new RFI/Request for Proposals to the engine manufacturers.

ATR Evo Props-c-ATR

Source: ATR

Hybrid-electric powertrain is being studied under Evo effort

Although the enhanced propulsion system will contribute the majority of the Evo’s targeted 20-30% reduction in CO2 emissions, ATR sees aerodynamic improvements and other changes as also helping to achieve the target.

Its next step will be to compare the different engine options and “to see if at aircraft level we have a good solution which is providing the necessary CO2 reduction and maintenance cost reduction”.

ATR’s ambition is to have the Evo ready to enter service around 2030. Working backwards from that date, Cuchet says it will need to know this year “if there is a solution available or not in terms of the engine” and if “we have a good aircraft overall”.

“This is a running study this year and next year. We have some milestones which are the end of 2024 and some at the end of 2025,” he says.

While he does not specify any launch date, Cuchet concedes it will need to happen around 2025 if the airframer is to meet the 2030 goal, based on typical development and certification timelines.

“Today the programme is not yet launched and we are still in the pre-study phase,” he adds.

However, Cuchet says he is pleased with the progress so far: “First we have good technical solutions in terms of engines but we also have good solutions for all the topics which we want to do on the Evo.”

ATR Evo tail-c-ATR

Source: ATR

Work on the Evo has been aided by French government-backed R&T project

ATR’s work on the Evo has also been aided by a French state-backed research and technology programme called PARIDES.

Designed to support technology maturation required for a future low-emission regional aircraft, the ATR-led project was launched in July 2021 and concluded in December last year.

ATR says “various workflow streams were thoroughly examined” including hybrid-electric systems, new “low-noise and high-performance propellers” an “optimised” de-icing system and avionic enhancements for regional operations.

Cuchet says that, although he cannot name the other partners in the project or detail any outcomes, PARIDES has enabled progress on the Evo. PARIDES has been funded by France’s DGAC civil aviation authority within the framework of the CORAC aerospace research council .

In addition, operator feedback is helping to shape the next-generation aircraft, says Cuchet. “We are gathering a lot of information from them. The top-tier requirements are not driven by us, but through the exchanges we have in working groups, to ensure that if we launch the programme we are targeting the right product.”

ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Leonardo.