Toward More Electric Powertrains in Aircraft: Technical Challenges and Advancements

Joseph Benzaquen, Jiang Biao He, Behrooz Mirafzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (SciVal)


The main purpose of this article is to provide an instructive review of the technological challenges hindering the road toward more electric powertrains in aircraft. Hybrid, all-electric, and turboelectric powertrain architectures are discussed as possible fuel consumption and weight reduction solutions. Among these architectures, the short-term implementation of hybrid and all-electric architectures is limited, particularly for large-capacity aircraft due to the low energy/power density levels achievable by state-of-the-art electrical energy storage systems. Conversely, turboelectric architectures with advanced distributed propulsion and boundary layer ingestion are set to lead the efforts toward more electric powertrains. At the center of this transition, power converters and high-power density electric machines, i.e., electric motors and generators, and their corresponding thermal management systems are analyzed as the key devices enabling the more electric powertrain. Moreover, to further increase the fuel efficiency and power density of the aircraft, the benefits and challenges of implementing higher voltage powertrains are described. Lastly, based on the findings collected in this article, the projected roadmap toward more electric aircraft powertrains is presented. Herein, the individual targets for each technology, i.e., batteries, electric machines, and power converters, and how they translate to future aircraft prototypes are illustrated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-193
Number of pages17
JournalCES Transactions on Electrical Machines and Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 CES.


  • All-electric aircraft
  • efficiency
  • electric machines
  • hybrid aircraft
  • power converters
  • power density
  • powertrain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Toward More Electric Powertrains in Aircraft: Technical Challenges and Advancements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this