Wright Electric, a company developing an electric single aisle commerical aircraft comparable to the Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 (earlier post), has begun testing and has demonstrated a megawatt-class high-performance inverter. Whether a future airplane is battery-electric or powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, an inverter is a key component in high-voltage aircraft electric systems.
Designed to be scalable from 500 kw to 20 MW systems, the Wright inverter targets the following levels of performance:
99.5% efficiency - a 6x improvement in heat loss over current in-production aviation inverters resulting in significantly lower thermal management loads.
30 kw/kg power density - in contrast, today’s technology delivers 10-20 kw/kg. On a standard single-aisle aircraft, this would result in a weight savings equivalent to adding an extra 5-10 passengers per flight.
Wright’s inverters are designed for a high-frequency drive. The Wright inverter has a 300 kHz high-frequency output, compared to standard inverters which have 50 kHz to 100 kHz frequencies.
Wright’s inverter uses a novel switching technology which reduces total losses by a factor of two over similarly rated systems.
The inverter now proceeds to the next phase of development including integration with an in-house developed 2 MW motor, high altitude chamber testing, and qualification for flight readiness.
Wright began its motor development program in 2018; its motor needs were different from what was commercially available. Wright is currently part of ARPA-E’s ASCEND program. (Earlier post.)
Wright is funded by venture capital firms and the US government. Wright received $7 million in motor/inverter-related government contracts in 2020.
Wright Electric was founded in 2016 by a team of aerospace engineers, powertrain experts, and battery chemists.