Posted: 12 July 2017, 8:00 a.m. EDT
Panelists: Moderator Marty Bradley, technical fellow, Boeing; Nady Boules, president, NB Motors LLC; A.P. "Sakis" Meliopoulos, professor, Georgia Institute of Technology; Rigo Rodriguez, chief of electrical capabilities, Rolls-Royce; Venkat Srinivasan, director, Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science
Tom Risen, Aerospace America staff reporter
The aviation industry can more effectively research and develop electric propulsion by learning from other sectors and their experiences with hybrid electricity and energy innovation, a panel of experts said July 11 at the 2017 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Atlanta.
There have been attempts to make different forms of gasoline and electric hybrid cars for more than a century, in part because the auto industry recognizes the sustainability issues for gasoline engines, said Nady Boules, president of NB Motors LLC, a Michigan-based consulting firm. Cost-effective electric propulsion can be more renewable than gasoline and cause less carbon emission, he said.
“We cannot sustain an industry that will do that kind of [environmental] harm,” Boules said of carbon emissions from gasoline cars.
Different hybrid engines have their benefits but also costs for the extra batteries required, he said, adding total market hybrid sales in the U.S. were low in 2016 in part because consumers are used to gasoline cars.
Lithium-ion has dramatically increased energy density batteries since the 1990s, but major innovation is needed on battery materials and packaging to optimize cost-effective electric transportation, said Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science.
Participants in the panel discussion, "The Future of Electrified Aircraft Propulsion for Commercial Transports: Perspectives and Lessons Learned From Outside Aviation” July 11 at the 2017 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Atlanta.
Rigo Rodriguez, chief of electrical capabilities at Rolls-Royce, said the aerospace industry should figure out its needs for batteries and pass the information to subcomponent suppliers to incorporate electric propulsion lessons from other sectors, including marine and automotive.
Modeling and simulation can virtually test the “what ifs” of electric power technology before aviation firms spend time and money on hardware, Rodriguez said.
“Before you get into [an experimental demonstrator], you want to make sure you have flushed out the vast majority of the problems you potentially could conceive of,” Rodriguez said.
Hydrogen fuel cells are an alternative to gasoline or conventional lithium-ion batteries that have yet to become cost-effective, in part because of the cost of building infrastructure like hydrogen fueling stations for cars, Boules explained. Infrastructure to power aircraft with hydrogen fuel cells, however, could be less costly than for cars, he said.
“You can actually produce your hydrogen in the airport efficiently and at a reasonable cost [because] you know how many planes you need to fuel,” he said.
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