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General Electricals: GE First in World to Test High Power, High Voltage Hybrid Electric Components in Altitude Conditions

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At the Farnborough International Airshow, GE announced it completed the world’s first test of a megawatt (MW)-class and multi-kilovolt (kV) hybrid electric propulsion system in altitude conditions that simulate single-aisle commercial flight.

The test of the high power, high voltage system — including electric motor/generators, power converters, power transmission and power control systems — successfully demonstrated performance and operation of the components in a replicated flight environment. This helps validate the architecture of the hybrid electric propulsion systems GE is developing. It’s also an important, necessary step in GE’s technology programs with NASA to develop a hybrid electric propulsion system for flight tests later this decade and for entry into service in the mid-2030s.

The altitude integration test of the system began in June 2021 and was completed earlier this year at NASA’s Electric Aircraft Testbed (NEAT) facility in Sandusky, Ohio. To represent the right and left engine side of an aircraft, two sets of a hybrid electric system were operated in conditions up to 45,000 feet, simulating the electrical loads required to help optimize the engines and propel and power an aircraft.

“We’re making aviation history by developing the technology to help make hybrid electric flight possible for everyday commercial air travel,” said Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering for GE Aerospace.

“GE is proud to be a longstanding partner with NASA for development of new aviation technologies. Together, we just passed a key milestone by successfully concluding the world’s first test of a high power, high voltage hybrid electric system at altitude conditions. We appreciate the collaboration to make this possible. This is one of many milestones in our journey with NASA towards demonstrating a hybrid electric aircraft engine system for a more sustainable future of flight,” Ali said.

The NEAT facility where testing took place is a NASA reconfigurable testbed used to design, develop, assemble and test electric aircraft power systems.

“NASA’s unique NEAT facility is the only testing location capable of simultaneously providing both high-electric power and high-altitude conditions in an area large enough to fit an entire electric powertrain, and we are proud to see this test with GE come to a successful conclusion. This facility has become highly sought after by GE and others across the aviation community, and it is critical to supporting the agency’s goal of developing technologies that will enable and support future climate change adaptation initiatives,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Mission Research Directorate.

“At NEAT, we are able to test a high-voltage powertrain system in flight altitude conditions without leaving the ground, thereby reducing major safety risks in a timely manner. With the ground testing completed, we are now well positioned to move to the next phase of our agreement with GE, an actual electric aircraft flight demonstration,” Pearce added.

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