Aircraft Distributed Electric Propulsion Technologies - A Review

Majid T. Fard, Jiangbiao He, Hao Huang, Yue Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Global transportation has shifted toward electromobility to achieve net-zero emission, and in the next few decades, commercial electric aircraft is likely to become a reality. This transition has embarked on through the existing more electric aircraft (MEA), and the ultimate goal will be potentially achieved by hybrid-electric and all-electric airliners, along with green fuels, such as green hydrogen or supercritical CO2 (sCO2) and its potential Gg CO2 equivalent elimination - with or without combustion. Electric propulsion replaces conventional jet propulsors with electric fans powered by electric generators rotated by an engine, a combination of generators and energy storage, or just energy storage. An appealing idea is to distribute the electric fans along the aircraft wings or tails to improve aerodynamics, boost energy efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions and acoustic noise. Focusing on distributed electric propulsion (DEP) systems, this article reviews the state-of-the-art advancements in aircraft electrification. Three major DEP categories, i.e., turboelectric, hybrid-electric, and all-electric propulsion technologies, are investigated. Although all of them utilize electric fans as propulsors, their system structures and power generation stages are different. Hence, comprehensive considerations are required to optimize the DEP system designs. Starting with the multifarious electrical system architectures proposed in the literature, a thorough review is conducted including the system parametric specifications, design considerations of power converters, the power electronics devices' characteristics in cryogenic conditions, and various energy storage systems. This review aims to provide a reference to researchers, engineers, and policy-makers in aviation to accelerate the progress toward future net-zero emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4067-4090
Number of pages24
JournalIEEE Transactions on Transportation Electrification
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 IEEE.


  • All-electric propulsion
  • distributed electric propulsion (DEP)
  • hybrid-electric propulsion
  • turboelectric propulsion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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