GE Aerospace has shared more details about the hybrid-electric technology demonstration project that was awarded funding in October under Europe’s Clean Aviation research program. Called AMBER, the program will be led by GE’s Italian business unit Avio Aero to study the integration of hybrid-electric components with fuel cells. GE Avio Aero leads four-year hybrid-electric and hydorgen project.

The four-year AMBER project was awarded €34 million from Clean Aviation, but the terms stipulate that the project has to be funded for at least the same amount as private or other funding. This and technological knowhow will be provided by 21 partners, which include various business units of GE Aerospace in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Turkey, universities in Italy and the Czech Republic, Leonardo, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Fraunhofer, and others.

GE has been working with NASA on a 1 Megawatt-class hybrid-electric powertrain for application on commercial aircraft, which Boeing joined earlier this year. During the Farnborough Airshow, GE Aerospace revealed that the engine had been successfully tested in conditions that simulate flight conditions at 45.000 feet.

AMBER goes a step further and intends to integrate the components of the hybrid-electric system like the power converters, transmission, and the motor/generator with hydrogen fuel cells. These are provided by German company H2FLY, which is also responsible for the build-up of the system as part of the validation and testing. Avio Aero will modify a GE Catalyst engine to make it suitable for hydrogen. Leonardo will look at aircraft integration.

The system will be tested on a ground rig around 2025 only, but looks at applications on future engine concepts like the CFM RISE open rotor of the use one gas turbine engines that use sustainable aviation fuels. “We are looking to design, develop, and test breakthrough technologies to shape the future of more sustainable flight in Europe and we appreciate the collaboration with Clean Aviation to make this demonstrator possible,” said Avio Aero Vice President of Engineering, Giorgio Abrate.  

GE Avio is also involved in three other Clean Aviation projects that were awarded funding in October. The first is called HYDEA and looks at hydrogen combustion. Avio Aero is working together with Safran Aircraft Engines, Airbus, and other companies and universities. This project is intended to reach the flight test phase, which will likely happen on the Airbus A380 demonstrator in 2026 that already will test a GE Passport engine with direct-burn of hydrogen.

Another project is OFELIA, which is led by Safran and studies ultra-efficient propulsion systems for short and medium-range aircraft. OFELIA adopts the open rotor architecture also used on RISE and plans to test it on the A380.

The HERA project is supervised by Leonardo and aims to define concepts of regional aircraft that have thirty to fifty percent lower emissions compared to current-generation aircraft, specifically by using hybrid-electric technology. Avio Aero is a partner in this.    

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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