The ongoing global efforts to minimize the harmful effects on the environment caused by aviation represent an enormous challenge for the industry, and the EU Commission has set a target of making aviation climate-neutral by 2050. In order to achieve this, researchers are working on a hybrid-electric aircraft for up to 50 passengers as part of the FutPrInt50 (Future Propulsion and Integration towards a hybrid-electric 50-seat regional aircraft) project. The project, which is funded by the European Union as part of the HORIZON 2020 program, is being coordinated by scientists from the Institute of Aircraft Design at the University of Stuttgart.
The aim of the project is to identify and promote technologies which enable the use of a hybrid-electric aircraft with up to 50 seats for commercial purposes by 2035/40. The EU funding for the project is EUR 4.7 million. The total budget for the project is EUR 7.63 million, including additional funds provided by international project partners.
Innovative technologies for sustainable and competitive air transport
The researchers involved in the FutPrInt50 project want to contribute towards carbon-neutral growth in aviation by using innovative technologies in aircraft design at the earliest opportunity. In addition to the research into a hybrid-electric aircraft for up to 50 passengers, the scientists are also working towards identifying key technologies for a future demonstrator in this market segment.
FutPrInt50 focuses on energy storage, energy recovery and the thermal management of hybrid systems. In addition to improving existing technologies, an open source tool for designing new hybrid electrical aircraft should be created which makes it possible to create blueprints for these types of aircraft.
Roadmap for a hybrid-electrical regional aircraft
In order to achieve the ambitious vision of using an up to 50-seater hybrid-electrical regional aircraft for regular flight operations, FutPrInt50 will design a roadmap for a hybrid-electrical regional aircraft. In future, this should use synergies between drive systems, aerodynamics and structural design. This should exceed the current generation of regional aircraft in terms of efficiency and eco-friendliness. The scientists see it as making an important contribution to a sustainable air transport system in future, which opens up flexible routes linking together smaller cities and makes it possible for Europeans to travel by air even over shorter distances in a way which does not produce carbon emissions.
The project is also incorporated into European research via the FutPrInt50 academy. As the aircraft designers of the future, students are given the opportunity to write their theses on key topics identified in the project under supervision from university professors and mentored by FutPrInt50 partners, as well as furthering their education and exchanging ideas via web conferences, seminars and workshops.
The FutPrInt50 project is carried out by an international consortium, which pools together specialist knowledge from different departments at an international level with partners from the EU, Brazil, Russia and the USA. Ten additional universities and research institutions from around the world are involved in the project alongside the University of Stuttgart, as well as partners from industry. FutPrInt50 is also advised by a committee, on which the European Union Aviation Safety Agency or EASA is represented as well as other partners from Canada.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 875551