Honeywell Is Developing A Hybrid-Electric Aircraft Engine

Commercial aviation is often singled out as the bad boy of carbon emissions. As such, manufacturers are seeking to minimize their impact on the environment through the development of low carbon technology. One such manufacturer is Honeywell Aerospace. The Phoenix-based company recently announced its plans to develop a hybrid-electric engine.

A320neo rollout
Engine technology has seen significant development in recent years. This was underlined by Lufthansa’s introduction of the Airbus A320neo in 2016. Photo: Getty Images

A biofuel-powered hybrid system

Honeywell Aerospace announced yesterday that it is developing a power source for hybrid-electric aircraft. It will center its innovative new system around a small but mighty turbogenerator, which it plans to run on biofuel. This fuel has chemical similarities to traditional fossil fuels, but is made from alternative, more sustainable sources.

The new Honeywell 1-megawatt generator will weigh just 127 kg. Despite its small stature, the company plans for it to be two-and-a-half times more powerful than its existing version. It will combine the turbogenerator with its HGT1700 auxiliary power unit (APU) to form the full power source system. Honeywell Aerospace’s Stephane Fymat states:

“There is an inherent need for electric and hybrid-electric power as the urban air mobility segment takes shape and unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] enter service. Our turbogenerators provide a safe, lightweight package to serve these burgeoning segments, and we’re designing our solutions to meet the unique needs of customers developing aerial vehicles of the future.”

Finnair (Marimekko Kivet Livery) Airbus A350-941 OH-LWL
Honeywell produces APUs for the Airbus A350, among other aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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What will it do?

As Fymat’s statement alludes to, Honeywell has spotted a market for its new hybrid system in terms of aerial mobility and UAVs. As such, its new turbogenerator, which can simultaneously provide power to multiple electric motors, will be deployed in these areas.

Honeywell claims that its exciting new system will allow for more efficient operations among UAVs such as larger, heavy-lift cargo drones. However, it will also be advantageous in the aerial mobility market, and able to be used on air taxis or even commuter aircraft.

Honeywell APU
Honeywell’s new turbogenerator will work in conjunction with the aircraft’s APU. Photo: YSSYguy via Wikimedia Commons

As well as powering electric motors, Honeywell’s hybrid power source will also be able to charge batteries on an aircraft. The first demonstration of the new turbogenerator is set to occur in 2021’s third quarter. The fact that it will run on biofuel is also advantageous for the company, as it has already developed its own brand, known as Honeywell Green Jet Fuel.

85 years of technological development

Honeywell is an established,industry-leading manufacturer of aerospace components. Having been founded in 1936 in Phoenix, Arizona, today it employs over 40,000 people. Taylor Alberstadt, a Power Systems Business Development Director, hopes that the company will use its stature to push forward the agenda for new technology. Alberstadt states:

“Honeywell’s unrivaled legacy in the manufacturing of auxiliary power units and larger gas turbine engines gives us the ability to create unique power systems for future vehicles. We think the future of aviation will include many new types of propulsion and power systems, and Honeywell is prepared to lead the way in their development.”

Honeywell Flight Data Recorder
Honeywell is also known for producing Flight Data Recorders. Photo: YSSYGuy via Wikimedia Commons

Honeywell serves commercial and military customers with its extensive portfolio of engines, avionics, APUs, and other components. Former US President Barack Obama even once honored a Honeywell employee’s commitment to aviation safety with the National Medal Of Technology. Overall, the company seems to be in an excellent position to be taking these exciting next steps in commercial aviation’s collective goal to minimize its emissions.

What do you make of Honeywell’s plans to develop a biofuel-powered hybrid-electric power source? Will this become the norm in the future as aviation looks to reduce its emissions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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