Environmental protection has now become paramount as evidence mounts to support the thesis of human activity-driven global warming. A global reduction of the emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere is therefore needed and new technologies have to be considered. A large part of the emissions come from transportation vehicles, including cars, trucks and airplanes, due to the nature of their combustion-based propulsion systems. Our team has been working for several years on the development of high power density superconducting motors for aircraft propulsion and fuel cell based power systems for aircraft. This paper investigates the feasibility of all-electric aircraft based on currently available technology. Electric propulsion would require the development of high power density electric propulsion motors, generators, power management and distribution systems. The requirements in terms of weight and volume of these components cannot be achieved with conventional technologies; however, the use of superconductors associated with hydrogen-based power plants makes possible the design of a reasonably light power system and would therefore enable the development of all-electric aero-vehicles. A system sizing has been performed both for actuators and for primary propulsion. Many advantages would come from electrical propulsion such as better controllability of the propulsion, higher efficiency, higher availability and less maintenance needs. Superconducting machines may very well be the enabling technology for all-electric aircraft development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
- Condensed Matter Physics