Wright Selected for Prestigious U.S. Department of Energy Electric Aircraft Program

Oct. 14, 2020

Wright Electric, Inc. (the "Company" or "Wright"), a world leader in zero-emissions commercial aviation, announced that the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has selected Wright for a prestigious contract to support the development of innovative, lightweight, and ultra-efficient electric propulsion motors, drives, and associated thermal management systems for commercial electric aircraft. 

Wright was started as a way to revolutionize an industry that has historically been a large contributor to carbon emissions. In a typical year, for someone who takes five long flights a year, flying could account for three-quarters of their carbon footprint. (1) The ultimate goal of Wright was borne from CEO Jeff Engler’s vision to produce a fleet of zero-emissions commercial airplanes. Since its founding in 2016, Wright has pioneered efforts to advance aerodynamics and propulsion technologies.  

The foundation of Wright’s groundbreaking Wright 1 zero-emissions 186-seat aircraft is its innovative high-efficiency electric propulsion system. As part of the ARPA-E program, Wright will design propulsion systems that use cutting-edge innovations in integrated cooling, power electronics, and structural design. This system has the potential to enable power densities beyond 12 kW/kg. Today, aircraft that use jet fuel-burning turbine engines achieve approximately 6-9 kW/kg. 

Wright’s novel design will use existing manufacturing techniques to create a high-efficiency, high-performance motor without sacrificing safety. This will be delivered by a permanent magnet motor coupled with an aggressive cooling strategy and a high-frequency inverter. 

In phase one of the ARPA-E program, the team will create a detailed design and subcomponent testing of this system. In phase two, it will build and demonstrate this system. 

The unique innovations across the electric propulsion system will aid the development of aircraft flying entirely on electric power. Single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft that carry 100 or more passengers account for more than 90 percent of global emissions from commercial aircraft.

"We could not be more happy to collaborate with the experts at ARPA-E on the future of aircraft design," said Jeff Engler, CEO of Wright.

Wright received its award from ARPA-E's Aviation-class Synergistically Cooled Electric-motors with iNtegrated Drives (ASCEND) program. This announcement is for Phase 1 of the program, which is $647,039. It is estimated that fewer than ten percent of applicants receive awards under ARPA-E’s programs.