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The Wright Spirit is a 100-passenger electric airliner envisioned for one-hour flights, equipped with four, “megawatt-class” motors. The initial design is based on the BAe 146 platform:
“The Wright Spirit aircraft design builds on the BAe 146 platform – a 100 passenger, 4-engine aircraft known for its operation out of noise-sensitive airports.”
According to the press release, the prototype will begin flight testing with one electric motor (and, as we understand, three conventional engines), two electric motors in 2024 and as a full-electric aircraft by 2026.
“To develop the integrated propulsion system, Wright has assembled an innovative team of companies with expertise in generation, energy storage and propulsion design. The program now proceeds with on-going ground testing and final selection of the propulsion system. In 2023, the aircraft will begin flight testing with one all-electric propulsor. The development program will then accelerate towards flight testing with two all-electric propulsors by 2024 leading to the full-electric aircraft by 2026. “
Fo reference, the 186-seat Wright 1 is expected to have 10 electric motors (2 MW each) for a total peak output of 20 MW. But it’s launch is expected no earlier than in 2030.
The power output is very high. According to Wright Electric, even a small 50-seat ATR-42 would require two 2 MW electric motors.
The company explains that it is in the process of development of 2 MW electric motors (scalable from 500 kW to 4 MW) and inverters with ultra-high efficiency and power density.
“The path was set in early 2020 with Wright’s announcement and development of their megawatt propulsion system for an all-electric commercial aircraft. Throughout the last two years, the company has been proving key components of the system including a high-efficiency, high-power density inverter and a 2 MW (2,700 HP) motor. The existing hydrocarbon-based propulsion system will be replaced with Wright’s all-electric, emissions-free propulsion system.”
However, Wright Electric’s press release remains silent about the energy source. Such a big aircraft would require an adequately big battery pack. The question is whether the energy density allows to build it with today’s technology, and then, whether it will be viable?