Wright Electric Passes Partial Discharge Tests

Dean Sigler Announcements, Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Wright Electric, testing its 1.2 megawatt motor, has passed partial discharge tests, a significant achievement in high-altitude safety.  The company explained the results and their importance in a press release.

Wright’s 1.2 mW motor that underwent partial discharge testing

”Wright Electric Announces Successful Partial Discharge Testing on our Motor”

“We are pleased to share a significant achievement in our ongoing pursuit of decarbonizing the industries that are hardest to decarbonize. Wright Electric proudly announces the successful completion of an altitude simulation test conducted in the Wright Lab, showcasing our 2 megawatt motor’s robust performance at a simulated atmosphere equivalent to 43,000 feet without experiencing Partial Discharge (PD).”

Jeffrey Engler, founder and CEO of Wright Electric, explains in the press release,Partial discharge is a form of electrical failure where electric charge escapes through tiny voids in apparently solid insulation. When partial discharges occur they can degrade the insulation and create a risk of fire in the motor.  PD becomes more likely at high altitudes due to thinning of the air, and presents a challenge for electric aviation which operates at higher voltages than existing aircraft.”

A Personal Footnote

Your editor had plans to build the world’s cheapest electric aircraft, unfortunately abandoned because finances dictated a reluctant farewell to the idea.  Jeffrey was one of several experts who advised against using a brushed motor, because at altitude, such motors can spark, a more attention-grabbing discharge.  Brushless motors are safer in that respect, but that requires airworthy, altitude capable components, something which Wright Electric has now demonstrated.

Success “At All Flight Conditions”

Wright Electric sees the challenges in high-altitude electric flight, subjecting its motor to its rated full-voltage at a simulated 43,000 feet.  According to the company, “The system exhibited zero partial discharge events at all test conditions, indicating that Wright’s innovative insulation system is performing as designed.

On To Something NEAT

The NEAT test center

Wright will move on to further validation at the NASA Electric Aircraft Test (NEAT) facility in Plum Brook Station, Ohio.   This arm of NASA Glenn Research Center, “Provides end-to-end testing of megawatt (MW)-scale electrified aircraft powertrains to demonstrate next-generation hybrid and turboelectric commercial aircraft capabilities.”

Full testing is planned later in 2024, with subsequent flight testing providing, “the ultimate confirmation of our motor’s performance under real-world conditions.”

Wright’s Ties to Stay Grounded

Typical illustration from Staygrounde.d.org, shoiwng climate impact of various transportation types

Wright Electric’s goals include reducing atmospheric carbon and noise associated with air travel.  StayGrounded.org works toward that goal and reflects the values that have guided Jeffrey Engler and Wright Electric from the beginning.

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