VerdeGo Aero announced the specifications and design for its new hybrid-electric genset for electric aircraft last week, dubbed the VH-3-185.

The VH-3-185 is VerdeGo’s third generation hybrid-electric hardware, and is the first generation of hardware slated for use in air taxis and commercial grade electric aircraft. The VH-3 enables airframers to design electric aircraft that can very efficiently convert jet fuel to electrons, which allows for an increased number of use cases when entire mission energy requirements profiles are considered.

The VH-3-185 core hybrid unit is a tightly integrated powerplant that includes the engine, generator/motor, power electronics, and cooling systems. With 185kW of output and the ability to be installed alone, in pairs, and with a battery pack, this system can be configured to deliver peak burst power up to 1MW and
continuous power up to 370kW.

VerdeGo Team

The VerdeGo team with their “iron bird” test rig. Image // VerdeGo Aero

The diesel engine inside the VH-3 is an exclusive variant of the certified SMA SR-305 that is
developed for VerdeGo’s hybrid systems. The VH-3’s diesel-hybrid architecture is compatible with
globally-available jet fuel or biofuel substitutes. This configuration provides compatibility with
existing fuel infrastructure and eliminates landing pad delays inherent with electric charging. In many cases, hybrid aircraft using the VH-3 can be designed to carry sufficient fuel to operate multiple back-to-back missions, both increasing utilization of the aircraft and eliminating the need for new energy infrastructure altogether at some landing sites. Energy for sequential missions is important since modular batteries may only be available at hubs, whereas outstations would have more minimal infrastructure to support flight operations for air taxis.

VerdeGo asserts that their powerplant significantly lowers operating costs and emissions when compared to typical powerplants for aircraft that the VH-3-185 would power. These would equate to 40% better fuel economy and lower overhaul costs, all while remaining quieter than existing powerplanes. VerdeGo claims that the VH-3-185 typically delivers a 4X to 7X increase in endurance when compared to current batteries while also having lower operating costs “due to the amortized per-flight cost of large, life-limited
battery packs that may need frequent replacement”.

Chief Executive Officer of VerdeGo Eric Bartsch characterized how the powerplant would fit into the timeline of the electrification of aviation: “The VH-3 hybrid system is designed to be compatible with the rationale for electrification, allowing airframers to develop hybrid-electric aircraft with mission capabilities that may not be available for 20 years in the battery-electric market, while enabling compliance with Part 91 or Part 135 energy reserve requirements for safe flight planning.”

VerdeGo shared that the VH-3-185 may be installed in three different configurations, including:

  • 185kW of electrical power to arrays of electric propulsion motors and/or onboard battery packs in a series-hybrid architecture
  • Directly driving a prop/rotor with up to 185kW of shaft power from the diesel engine in a parallel-hybrid architecture*
  • Operating the generator as a motor powered by an onboard battery pack to provide up to
    185kW from the generator in a parallel-hybrid architecture
  • Directly driving a prop/rotor with less than 185kW while sending the balance of the power
    from the diesel engine to power distributed electric power arrays, active aerodynamics,
    onboard systems, and/or battery pack
  • Operating in “burst power” mode delivering the combined output of the diesel engine and
    the generator (operating as a motor powered by an onboard battery pack) for up to 370kW
    of shaft power

Why it’s important: VerdeGo’s value proposition focuses on ready-made hybrid electric propulsion that will bridge the gap between today’s internal combustion engine technology and tomorrow’s pure electric aviation propulsion. While electrification will likely be the end state of aviation propulsion within the next 50 years, the next step toward becoming fully electric is hybrid propulsion devices. These devices will both leverage the benefits of energy-dense of liquid fuels (such as diesel) and provide the advantages of electric motors in situations that require lower levels of sustained power such as lower noise and better operational efficiency.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz

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