Electric Motor Technology

Electric motors for application in aviation must be designed for continuous operation at cruise power. Motors for hybrid automotive applications or for model aircraft are often designed for short power boost applications so that one must be careful when comparing data. Figure 12 plots the power specific mass of various piston engines and electric motors. The few electric motors available today for aircraft propulsion have a power output of less than 100 kW. Large electric motors are also used in trains, ships and submarines, but here the mass is less important. Today it seems to be possible to build electric motors having a specific mass of about 2 to 4 kW/kg. This compares favorably with the specific mass of larger turboshaft and turbofan engines at cruise power (see Figure 13 and Figure 14). Future developments may extend the range of electric motors to values of up to 8 kW/kg, but there is a strong need for the development of lightweight electric motors, specifically designed for application in aircraft. In the literature assumptions of up to 14 (e.g. in [5]) can be found, but assume superconducting motors with cryogenic cooling systems.

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