Nidec subsidiary to develop aircraft drives

Nidec Leroy-Somer has been contracted by Airbus to develop electric motors for a future hydrogen-electric propulsion system. The prototypes are to meet “very high requirements in terms of safety, reliability, energy efficiency and weight”.

Nidec Leroy-Somer is a French propulsion developer belonging to the Japanese electric motor manufacturer Nidec, Leroy-Somer has been part of the Nidec Group since 2017. As part of the cooperation with Airbus, prototypes of Nidec Leroy-Somer’s electric motors will initially be tested on special test benches on the ground. After the initial qualification and validation, a second phase of flight tests will be conducted.

Apart from the “very high requirements”, Nidec does not give any further details on the planned electric motor prototypes in the announcement. What power and weight the drive units are to achieve is thus not known. However, it says that the research and development team in Angoulême, France, is challenged to “explore breakthrough technologies and innovations to optimize the architecture of the aircraft propulsion system”. So the demands are likely to be high.

The background to the cooperation is Airbus’ ambition to bring the first zero-emission commercial aircraft to market by 2035. In 2020, Airbus presented three hydrogen aircraft concepts, but among them were modified gas turbine engines in which the hydrogen was to be burned. Since then, however, Airbus has focused on hydrogen-electric propulsion. In the past year, among other things, a development contract for fuel cell stacks optimised for aviation applications was awarded to EKPO, a hydrogen centre was opened in the UK (with a focus on storage technology) and a cooperation with Linde on H2 infrastructure at airports was concluded.

“We are pleased to have been selected by Airbus to provide our expertise in high efficiency electric motors and contribute, through our innovative R&D teams and solutions, to this ambitious eco-friendly commercial aviation project,” says Jean-Michel Condamin, President of Nidec Leroy-Somer’s Commercial & Industrial Motors Division. “This important milestone for more sustainable mobility, presents several challenges that we are committed to overcome, to serve the global community.”


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