US DOE to support the development of electric aviation technology with $55m investment

Published: Thursday, January 9, 2020

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has announced up to $55 million in funding will be awarded to two programs to support the development of low-cost electric aviation engine technology and powertrain systems.

Awardees will be subject to a rigorous performance metrics review over the course of their funding cycles.

The programs are undertaking research on Aviation-class Synergistically Cooled Electric-motors with iNtegrated Drives (ASCEND) and Range Extenders for Electric Aviation with Low Carbon and High Efficiency (REEACH), seeking to develop commercial-class electric aviation energy technology solutions with the goal of mitigating the emissions caused by passenger aircraft.

Air travel accounts for nearly 175 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the US per year, approximately 2.6 per cent of domestic GHG emissions. The programs represent ARPA-E’s first focused efforts on the development of more energy-efficient, electric motor and powertrain systems for commercial aircraft.

Dan Brouillette, US Secretary of Energy, said, “Every American should have reliable, affordable and efficient transportation, and the electrification of aviation systems has the potential to transform the way aircraft consume and use energy. These programs will focus on innovative research and development for flight systems that increase the overall efficiency of aircraft and have the potential to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.”

Funding will be split between the two programs – up to $35 million will be available through ASCEND, and up to $20 million available in the REEACH program. A portion of each program’s funding will be designated to qualifying small business applicants under ARPA-E’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.