Electric Flightworthy Lightweight Integrated Thermally-Enhanced powertrain System (eFLITES) for Narrow-body Commercial Aircraft

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Project Term:
04/06/2021 - 10/05/2024

Critical Need:

It is estimated that flights on narrow-body aircraft are responsible for nearly half of aviation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A decarbonized, narrow-body aircraft with electrified propulsion would provide the greatest impact on GHG emissions from a single aircraft type. ARPA-E seeks to mitigate the growing environmental burden associated with commercial air travel at minimum economic cost by developing elements of an ultra-high efficient aircraft propulsion system that uses carbon neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs). It is anticipated that the developed lightweight and high-efficiency all-electric powertrains will find direct application in the emerging urban air mobility, unmanned aircraft aerial vehicle, and select regional aircraft markets. These markets are likely to be the first adopters before the technology scales to a single-aisle aircraft.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

General Electric Global Research will develop a 2 MW fully integrated all-electric aircraft powertrain and demonstrate a 350-kW lab-scale prototype to enable zero carbon emission narrow-body commercial aircraft with all-electric propulsion. The technology is supported by several key innovations such as a high-voltage, direct-drive, synchronous permanent-magnet motor with transformational embedded cooling of the windings using supercritical carbon dioxide and high-temperature, high-voltage electrical insulation; a modular inverter fully integrated into the motor to reduce component count with high-temperature, low-loss silicon carbide (SiC)-inverter modules; and an ultracompact thermal management system that services the motor and inverter. The design and use of novel manufacturing techniques will lead to significant mass reduction and thus increase specific power density while maintaining a very high electrical-to-mechanical energy conversion efficiency.

Potential Impact:

The ASCEND program has the potential to accelerate innovations and cause disruptive changes in the emerging electric aviation field.


The program will further enhance U.S. technology dominance in the field of high-performance electric motors for hybrid electric aviation. Electrified aircraft architectures can increase reliability by increasing redundancy.


An all-electric propulsion system operating on CNLF would have net-zero emissions and be much quieter for passengers and people in the vicinity of airports.


By targeting propulsion system efficiency and specific power improvements, CNLF-powered, zero-net emission aircraft will be capable of a longer range and reduced fuel cost, making them economically more attractive.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Tew
Project Contact:
Mr. John Yagielski
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


National Renewable Energy Laboratory
University of Wisconsin

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