E-Motor Tech Promises Supersonic Flight Times; Virtual Transmission for EVs
Passenger jets won’t go supersonic anytime soon, but there is new technology that could deliver door-to-door total flight times rivaling supersonic travel. With a new AC electric induction motor driving the nosewheels of an aircraft, considerable time can be saved during pushback, taxiing and even loading passengers. And here’s the hook for electric cars or trucks: The unique motor design can deliver enough torque to run a 200,000 lb plane while providing light weight and high performance at higher taxi speeds. In essence, it emulates a gearless “virtual transmission”.
The innovative motor winding allows its controller to vary the number of phases, magnetic poles and frequency of alternating current – for example, from typical three-phase AC, up to 12 or 18. This allows it to efficiently supply the torque of a DC permanent magnet motor while providing the lighter weight, lower cost, and improved performance of an AC induction motor at higher operating speeds.
Flying hybrids mean big savings
If all of this rings a bell among our longtime readers, it’s because we covered the technology in a November 2008 Tech column called “Flying Hybrids!” The “mesh connected windings” and “fundamental harmonics” involved in this engine were developed by Gibraltar-based Chorus Motors, which is patiently working to bring the technology to market through its subsidiary WheelTug long before this 2008 column. the company, Isaiah Cox, is now reasonably certain that final flight certification will be granted by the end of 2021, with new production and modernization facilities starting in early 2022. A large demonstration is planned at the airport Memphis International in mid-September.
WheelTug has been demonstrated on both large (Boeing 767) and small (737) aircraft, with electricity still coming from the standard auxiliary power supply (no batteries need to be added). The company is now targeting shorter narrow-body planes like the 737 and the Airbus A320. Here’s how WheelTug promises to save fuel and time on a typical flight:
- Eliminate the wait time for “wing walkers” and a tug operator, connect the tug to the nose gear, attach the communication link and push back.
- Eliminate the time required to disconnect the ramp personnel and vehicles above and clear the area.
- Start riding immediately, without needing to stop for breath.
- Start the engines only in time to warm them up before takeoff.
- Land and shut down the engines almost immediately, allowing them (along with the brakes) to cool en route to the boarding gate so the ground crew can begin servicing / baggage collection on arrival.
- Taxi to the door, no towing.
WheelTug sets the average fuel savings at 36 gallons per flight and time savings at 8.5 minutes on pushback alone, but most importantly the greater predictability of all the time spent on the ground. Today, backtracking takes 13 minutes or more on 2% of flights, so the total expected flight time has to ‘cook’ longer to preserve the airline’s reputation for ‘punctuality’. (Note that the time spent with the engines idling during de-icing procedures is not included in these estimates.)
For these, WheelTug provides additional savings of $ 100 per flight for pushback charges and $ 95 for engine wear, while significantly reducing the risk of foreign object damage from litter being sucked off the runway. and collisions caused by tug operators (aircraft movement is always directed from a tower, but the pilot maintains control while monitoring camera views which allow full situational awareness) And aircraft capable of backing up and to taxi themselves will waste much less time “recovering” from weather delays which place a high demand on a limited number of tugs and ground crew.
WheelTug perfects “The Twist”
My favorite party trick for cutting down on plane time is “the Twist”. In round numbers, the 737 and A320 planes are around 120 feet long by 120 feet wide, and with WheelTug powering a nose gear that can pivot to allow the plane to nearly pivot in place. This allows “parallel parking”, as in airports in the 1950s and 1960s, with front and rear gangways that allow passengers to embark and disembark in half the time. A ramp designed to accept a widebody aircraft usually has enough space for a narrowbody aircraft equipped with WheelTug to enter, turn parallel to the lobby, and retreat. This makes it possible to consider dividing by approximately two the programmed time that an aircraft spends in a “U-turn” at the gate (from 55 minutes to 27 minutes for a 737 / A320).
WheelTug is so sure that it can save airlines huge amounts that it plans to install the system for free and charge airlines half of their savings, using system monitors determining WheelTug usage and calculating savings accordingly. .
Where are the car manufacturers?
Cox admitted that two automakers known for their civil and racing hybrid powertrains approached his company, but Chorus focused so much on the aviation industry that he declined to participate. He does admit, however, to being open to licensing the patented technology, and I am hopeful that someone will soon incorporate these “virtual drive” electronic machines into a particularly large and / or fast electric vehicle for the road.
E-Motor Tech post promises supersonic flight times; Virtual drivetrain for EVs first appeared on MotorTrend.