Europe Launches Research Into Hybrid-electric 50-Seater

Artist's concept.
Credit: DLR

Europe has launched a research project to develop technologies and configurations for a hybrid-electric 50-seat regional airliner that could enter service in 2035-40.

Led by Stuttgart University in Germany, the Futprint50 project will run from January 2020 to December 2022.

The European Union is providing €4.7 million ($5.2 million) of the project’s €7.6 million budget. Brazilian regional aircraft manufacturer Embraer is part of the Futprint50 project, which also involves participants in the Netherlands, UK, U.S. and Russia.

In addition to reducing aviation emissions, a hybrid-electric 50-seater with lower operating costs than current regional aircraft could open up new point-to-point connections between smaller cities at lower infrastructure costs than rail or road transportation, the project team says.

Futprint50 will focus on energy storage, energy harvesting and thermal management technologies. It will also develop multidisciplinary design optimization methods as well as models and tools to evaluate new configurations and integration at the system and aircraft level.

Open-source design tools, hybrid-electric configurations and reference data sets will be generated and shared with the community in an effort to accelerate the development for future electrified aircraft, the team says.

To support development of hybrid-electric regional aircraft, the project will develop road maps not only for technology but also for regulation, aiming to enable market, technology and legal readiness for entry into service of a hybrid-electric aircraft in 2035-40.

In addition to Stuttgart University and Embraer, participants include TU Delft in the Netherlands, the UK’s Cranfield University and Illinois State University in the U.S. Russian participation is led by aerohydrodynamic institute TsAGI. Canada is represented on the advisory board.

Futprint50 is a companion program to Imothep (for Investigation and Maturation of Technologies for Hybrid Electric Propulsion), an EU-funded project developing a road map for maturation of the electrification technology. 

Led by French aerospace research agency Onera and running from January 2020 to December 2023 with a budget of €18.2 million —€10.4 million of that from the EU—Imothep involves 32 industry partners and research institutions in Europe, the UK, Sweden, Russia and Canada.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.