Electrical systems help shape the future of air transport
Safran Electrical & Power is inventing the ePower electrical systems, which contribute to aircraft decarbonization. It now finds itself at a turning point in its history, and must face up to a number of ambitious challenges. We speak to Hervé Blanc, Executive Vice President & General Manager of the Power division.
What are your short and medium-term challenges?
Five years ago, we defined a strategic and technological vision enabling us to develop technological “building blocks” for electrical systems and to invent the ePower range. Today, we are transforming these R&T* technologies into products and solutions for our customers. In other words, we have entered the industrialization, marketing, certification and customer support phase. It's a very interesting time! And there is very strong market interest for all of our product lines, whether in electric motors, distribution, protection components, etc. For example, we have reached an initial level of industrial production by producing around ten electric motors during the summer of 2021. In 2022, we will manufacture one complex electric motor per week.
At the same time, we continue to increase our investment in R&T. Today, the first generation of electrical systems for VTOL platforms** and general aviation*** has reached maturity. We have signed contracts or are in advanced discussions with around twenty major clients. But the work does not stop there, and our engineers are now preparing the next generations of components and the solutions necessary for the hybridization of future generations of medium-haul combustion engines.
“In 2022, we will manufacture one complex electric motor per week”
In what way is electrical systems work key to the future of the Safran Group?
We play a key role in two ways. Firstly, because almost all of the systems produced by Safran companies are becoming more electric. And Safran Electrical & Power provides support in order to provide competitive electrical solutions to all Group companies. We are working with Safran Aircraft Engines on the hybridization of the engines of the future; with Safran Helicopter Engines on the electrification and hybridization of helicopter engines; with Safran Landing Systems on the electrification of landing gear; and with Safran Nacelles on electric thrust reversers.
We also play a key role in areas where electrification is creating new markets, with the arrival of new types of all-electric and hybrid aircraft. We want to be a champion in these new markets!
“We want to remain the leader in electrical systems and be a champion in the new markets of all-electric and hybrid propulsion”
To succeed in these challenges, you are looking for new talents. Can you tell us more?
We already have a team of talented staff, with unparalleled expertise, but we need to strengthen it. We are fortunate to have highly international teams. This is an asset and a source of development for our activities, because our technical responses take technologies from all our sites into account.
Currently, we are recruiting at all our skills centers, in all countries: in Great Britain, for rotating machines; in France, for power electronics, distribution and systems; in the United States, for rotating machines, software, maintenance and components; and in Tunisia and Mexico, for industrialization. We are looking for talents with a strong desire to innovate, who are able to think outside the box.
"We are looking for talents with a strong desire to innovate, who are able to think outside the box"
How much do you contribute to greener aircraft?
Our ePower range helps reduce the carbon footprint of airplanes. Engine hybridization technologies will considerably help reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared to current combustion engines. In addition, electric and hybrid motors intended for the new VTOL platforms ** and general aviation*** will drastically reduce noise and CO2 emissions. On an all-electric aircraft, the carbon footprint depends on the source of electricity in the country concerned.
We recently participated in a working group with aviation stakeholders in Norway. They are ready to modify their air transport network to reduce their carbon footprint. The idea is to replace traditional planes with 19-passenger electric or hybrid planes, even if this means adding stopovers if the range is smaller. In North America and in many parts of Asia or Europe, similar approaches are under consideration. Thanks to electricity, the hitherto-neglected sector of inter-regional transport will be able to rise from its ashes!
*Research and Technology
**Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft
***General aviation includes all civil aviation activities other than commercial transport: sports (aerobatic, gliding) and leisure (tourism) aviation, aerial work (rescue, medical evacuations, pilot training, agricultural spraying, fire fighting, photography and mapping, aerial surveillance by customs or police, etc.), business aviation, etc.
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