GE Signals EPISCenter Hybrid Power Research Expansion

CFM the Open Fan demonstrator rendering

A rendering of CFM's open fan demonstrator concept.

Credit: CFM

CINCINNATI—GE Aerospace has revealed plans to expand its Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center (EPISCenter) in Dayton, Ohio, in response to increasing demand for electric and hybrid propulsion research facilities, and to prepare for integrated testing under CFM International’s RISE next-generation engine program.

The $20 million investment will add a seventh test cell, which is expected to be operational by mid-2024. The expansion to the GE research site “has been in the works for about 18 months,” says Christine Andrews, executive hybrid electric systems leader at GE Aerospace.

“The building here is full, and I could actually use that extra test cell here right now today, if we had it up and running,” she adds.

Andrews says they are prepped for the ground-breaking phase “later this summer,” noting: “Long lead items have already been ordered, so we’ll be set and ready as soon as the cell is commissioned to start moving ahead with even more testing.”

The new cell will be capable of handling more than 2 megawatts of power, making it the largest-capacity test site inside the facility.

The EPISCenter’s expanding role builds on work already underway with NASA and Boeing on the Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration megawatt-class hybrid-electric propulsion program. It also adds to GE’s ongoing work on another NASA contract for the Turbofan Engine Power Extraction Demonstration under the Hybrid Thermally Efficient Core project.

The underlying push for the expansion is driven, however, by GE’s increasing focus on hybrid-electric capability and other technologies through CFM’s RISE program, in collaboration with Safran Aircraft Engines. The RISE program is aimed at developing technologies that would enable an engine to achieve at least 20% lower fuel consumption and 20% fewer carbon dioxide emissions compared with today’s best-in-class engines.

GE is also using the EPISCenter to evaluate several military programs, and it has been involved in tests of systems for the company’s XA100 adaptive cycle engine.

It is also working with Sikorsky on the Hybrid-Electric Demonstrator, a CT7 turboshaft-based powertrain that includes a 1 megawatt-class generator and related power electronics. The fully autonomous, hybrid-electric, vertical-take-off-and-landing prototype will be used as a testbed to evaluate new aircraft design, propulsion systems and control architectures for utility missions with military and commercial applications.

The 138,000-ft.2 EPISCenter was opened in 2013 on the University of Dayton campus, representing a $53 million investment to help advance the development of more electric aircraft. GE says since then, another $26 million has been invested in facilities and equipment.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.