Journal Article

Electric, Hybrid, and Turboelectric Fixed-Wing Aircraft: A Review of Concepts, Models, and Design Approaches


B. Brelje, and J. R. R. A. Martins


Progress in Aerospace Sciences, 1041–19, 2019



Following high-profile government and industry studies, electric aircraft propulsion has emerged as an important research topic. This article surveys the scholarly and business literature on fixed-wing aircraft propelled in whole or in part by electricity. This includes all-electric, hybrid electric, and turboelectric architectures. We introduce a classification of electric aircraft, technology factors, and performance parameters. Next, we present an overview of electrical components and electric propulsion architectures. We survey existing commercial products, prototypes, demonstrators, and conceptual studies, and develop a list of potential benefits and disadvantages of electric propulsion with estimates of potential benefit. We present an introduction to power electronics, electric machines, and batteries for aircraft designers, and explore the emerging problem of aircraft thermal management. We review modeling, simulation, and multidisciplinary optimization capabilities, and identify current shortcomings. We conclude that the electric aircraft design problem introduces new coupling between previously distinct disciplines, such as aerodynamics and propulsion, which may only become apparent with high-fidelity, physics-based analysis. High-fidelity multidisciplinary design analysis and optimization of electric aircraft, including safety and economic analysis, remains an open challenge.