Hybrid-electric Tecnam P2010 takes flight

After several successful ground tests, a unique hybrid-electric demonstrator aircraft has taken to the skies for the first time. The first flight of the P2010 H3PS demonstrator powered by the world’s first integrated parallel hybrid propulsion system took place on 21 December 2021. The success of this exciting milestone is the result of a team of Rolls-Royce, aircraft manufacturer Tecnam, and engine manufacturer Rotax specialists working together as part of the joint ambition to decarbonise aviation.

H3PS which stands for ‘High Power High Scalability Aircraft Hybrid Powertrain’, is a project funded under the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.  The project involved equipping a 4-seat Tecnam P2010 with a parallel-hybrid electric powertrain – believed to be the first of its kind ever developed for general aviation – to help reduce fuel consumption of up to 20%, while maintaining and even extending aircraft range. The project introduces advanced technology for a smaller power class, while being scalable for larger general aviation aircraft.

Rob Watson, President of Rolls Royce Electrical said: “The successful first flight of the P2010 H3PS demonstrator is a pioneering achievement by the team to advance hybrid-electric flight.  Working with Tecnam and Rotax has been hugely beneficial and this project has continued to build our capabilities in delivering all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for the advanced air mobility market. Rolls-Royce is committed to investing in the technology solutions to enable and deliver sustainable aviation.”

The Rolls-Royce Electrical team in Hungary were responsible for the design, manufacturing, and installation of the complete electric propulsion system of the modified Tecnam P2010 aircraft. Comprehensive data was collected during the flight for an optimal operation of the system.

Thanks to H3PS, Rolls Royce has further enhanced their capability in the development of all- electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for aviation. Their Hungarian colleagues are part of an international team to revolutionise aviation.  We are focused on projects such as the development of an all-electric propulsion system for an eVTOL (electrical Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft. Rolls-Royce is committed to achieving sustainable carbon neutral aviation” said Dr. Gergely György Balázs CEO of Rolls-Royce Hungary.

The first successful maiden test of the H3PS aircraft is a pioneering achievement of the Hungarian Rolls-Royce team in the development of a hybrid-electric flight. The programme has demonstrated the ability to design, manufacture, and install a fully integrated system and has provided us with valuable data and experience in hybrid-electric flight. The knowledge they gained will be used in future international projects to create higher performance hybrid-electric propulsion systems capable of powering a 19-seat commuter aircraft” said Zoltán Koltai, Head of Manufacturing of Rolls-Royce Electrical.

The 30 kW electric machine installed on the aircraft works as the starter-motor to start the combustion engine. During take-off and climb it is a thrust booster-motor adding extra torque to the propeller shaft. In the air, when the aircraft is cruising, it operates as a generator and converts the shaft movement into electric energy to re-charge the batteries.

As the electric motor contributes to the aircraft propulsion, the combustion engine can be reduced in size. For the Tecnam P2010, the 180 hp standard engine has been replaced with a smaller engine with only 141 hp. The reduction in engine size reduces fuel consumption and has further benefits. It also means the aircraft can go further on its existing fuel tank, and because the engine is always running at its optimal operating level it is more efficient and experiences less wear and tear, resulting in reduced maintenance costs and ultimately a lower cost of ownership. 

The H3PS project was launched in 2018 and has now reached its objective. The success of the collaboration also strengthens the long-term cooperation with Tecnam as the two companies joined forces to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market. This is another demonstration of Rolls-Royce developing the technology and the capability to be the leading provider of all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for Advanced Air Mobility.