Royal NLR with its aviation research and industry partners officially launched the IMOTHEP project in Brussels January 20, an ambitious research initiative on hybrid electric propulsion funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is key for aviation to pursue its development in the service of society and people mobility. This calls for ambitious research and disruptive solutions well beyond the continuous improvement of current aircraft technologies.

Lead by the French aerospace research lab ONERA, a consortium of 33 key aviation industry and research stakeholders is engaging in an ambitious research project on hybrid electric propulsion for commercial aviation, a technology that opens a new design space for aircraft and may provide a revolutionary step in improving their efficiency. IMOTHEP (Investigation and Maturation of Technologies for Hybrid Electric Propulsion), a 4-year Research and Innovation Action receives a 10.4 M€ grant from the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 framework program.

IMOTHEP will perform an in-depth investigation of electric technologies for hybrid electric aircraft in close connection with advanced aircraft configurations design and innovative propulsion architectures taking advantages of synergies between propulsion and airframe.

Role of NLR
NLR is involved in four technical work packages. Within the framework of integrated vehicle design, NLR will investigate cooperative tools and multi-disciplinary methods used within design loops to address the impact of new propulsion systems on the configuration design parameters. For the aeropropulsive design and integration, NLR will investigate the ‘toolchain’ to estimate the performance for distributed electric propulsion. This part is strongly linked to research into new ways of looking at the energy balance, as conventional thrust-and-drag bookkeeping can no longer obvious be determined separately when it comes to distributed propulsion. Concerning the electronic architecture, NLR will coordinate the set-up and integration of a thermal management system for hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft. Furthermore, hybrid-electric propulsion integration requires updated regulations. NLR will cooperate with Leonardo and EASA to identify certification issues and will anticipate on future needs in regulations.

The ultimate goal of the project is to achieve a key step in assessing the potential of hybrid electric propulsion for reducing the emissions of commercial aviation and eventually to build the technology roadmap for its development.

The IMOTHEP consortium gathers the major European aircraft manufacturers (Airbus and Leonardo), leading engines manufacturers (Safran, GE Avio, MTU, ITP, and GKN), European aeronautic research organisations from EREA (ONERA, CIRA, DLR, AIT, ILOT, INCAS and NLR), higher education organisations (Université de Lorraine, ISAE/Sup’Aéro, Strathclyde University, TU Braunschweig, Politecnico di Bari, Chalmers University, and University of Nottingham), a think tank (Bauhaus Luftfahrt), an intergovernmental organisation (Eurocontrol), and a consulting company in innovation management (L’Up). IMOTHEP receives support also from EASA as third party.

In addition, IMOTHEP develops international cooperation with Russia, with the involvement of five leading research organisations (CIAM, GosNIIAS, MAI, NRC, TsAGI), as well as with Canada (NRC-CNRC).

For more information, also visit the website of IMOTHEP or contact NLR Electric Flying programme manager Martin Nagelsmit (martin.nagelsmit@nlr.nl).