Airbus’s groundbreaking hybrid-electric aircraft, EcoPulse, recently achieved a historic milestone by completing its first flight test in hybrid-electric mode. Departing from France’s Tarbes Airport, the EcoPulse demonstrated the functionality of its hybrid propulsion system during the approximately 100-minute flight, marking a significant stride toward the aviation industry’s decarbonization goals.

Unveiled at the 2019 Paris Air Show, EcoPulse is a collaborative project developed by Airbus, Daher, and Safran, aimed at reducing carbon emissions and minimizing noise levels. The aircraft, based on a Daher TBM platform, is equipped with six electric thrusters (e-Propellers) distributed along the wings, each driven by an electric Safran engine rated at 50 kW.

The hybrid propulsion system integrates two power sources: a turbogenerator, driven by a gas turbine supplied by Safran, and an 800 V battery pack supplied by Airbus, capable of delivering up to 350 kW. This innovative system contributes to the aircraft’s reduced weight, increased fuel efficiency, and environmental friendliness.

The successful flight test of EcoPulse’s hybrid-electric mode is a major accomplishment for the aviation industry. The onboard systems, including the flight control computer, high-voltage battery pack, distributed electric propulsion, and hybrid electric turbogenerator, were thoroughly tested and validated during the flight.

Sabine Klauke, Airbus CTO, highlighted the significance of this milestone, stating, “This is a major milestone for our industry, and we’re proud to have powered the EcoPulse demonstrator’s first flight with our new battery systems.” The aircraft’s disruptive propulsion system is considered crucial in advancing progress in electric and hybrid electric flight, aligning with the broader goal of decarbonizing the aerospace industry.

The EcoPulse project aims to provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of hybrid-electric distributed propulsion, emphasizing CO2 emissions reduction and noise level control. The aircraft’s aerodynamic and acoustic integration, coupled with advanced technologies such as the Flight Control Computer and synchrophasing, positions EcoPulse as a pioneer in sustainable aviation.

With lessons learned from the flight tests, the collaborative team, including Daher, Safran, and Airbus, plans to refine their technology roadmap and contribute to the development of more sustainable aircraft in the future. EcoPulse represents a harmonious blend of craftsmanship and innovation, marking a transformative step toward the aviation industry’s green and sustainable future.

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Kay Adams

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