Vicor’s New Partnership Aims to Power Environmentally Friendly Air Travel
Vicor Corporation, is teaming up with Ampaire, an electric aircraft manufacturer, to design electric-powered aviation systems with two of Vicor’s converter technologies
Vicor’s engineering team announced it has partnered with Ampaire to drive CO2 emissions down with electric-powered aviation. Ampaire is a leading electric aircraft manufacturer and hopes future production will lead to the first commercial short-haul flight across the Hawaiian Islands.
Image used courtesy of Ampaire.
Vicor’s Bus Converters (BCM)
Bus Converters (BCM) designed by Vicor are high-density, high-efficiency, fixed ratio isolated DC-DC converter modules. These BCMs are power components that provide voltage transformation, current multiplication, and current isolation for robust designs at a small footprint.
Vicor’s BCMs hold peak efficiencies of up to 98% and power densities of up to 2,870 W/in3. Image used courtesy of Vicor Corporation.
The BCM functions as a small high-frequency DC-DC transformer, it steps down the input voltage by a range of ratios and provides current isolation. These converters can be connected in parallel for designs with higher power arrays. Vicor’s BCMs are used for three-phase AC industrial power, DC transmission systems for remote unmanned vehicles, high-end computing systems, telecom/datacom systems, and transportation applications.
Ampaire’s Cessna 337 Skymaster
In Ampaire’s current prototype is a retro-fitted Cessna 337 Skymaster, a standard combustion engine-powered propeller is located in the rear of the aircraft. During the flight, power can be dynamically shared across both propulsion systems to optimize for speed, power/fuel consumption, and/or noise.
Ampaire’s future plane is expected to carry from nine to nineteen passengers and travel the 90-mile range from Honolulu to Kahului. Image used courtesy of Ampaire.
Ampaire’s design team also requested a solution that is with compact size, high efficiency, simple thermal management. The engineering team also did not want to design or use circuit boards for the power converter.
With Ampaire’s design requirements, Vicor’s engineering team recommended that the power conversion and regulation were to be completed in two stages. This would allow them to optimize the efficiency and power density of the module.
Power delivery in two stages. Image used courtesy of Vicor Corporation.
A fixed ratio bus converter module (BCM) is used to isolate and down-convert the high voltage battery, then followed by a low voltage DC-DC converter to regulate the output of the bus converter to 28V.
The power delivery system for Ampaire’s prototype plane consists of a high-voltage battery pack power source with a range of 500V to 738V. Typical control systems operate from a 28V supply. This makes a DC to DC converter solution ideal. Because of the high voltage battery, current isolation is also necessary along with a power rating of up to 500 Watts.
Overall, Vicor’s solution enabled Ampaire’s engineers to achieve key design advantages compared to bulky, conventional power supplies. These power technology advantages were complemented by Vicor’s proven heritage of providing military/aerospace-grade quality and reliability.
The traditional combustion engine-powered compared to an electric-powered aircraft. Image used courtesy of Vicor Corporation.
Charging The Flight Ahead
According to the case study, Ampaire seeks to achieve a 90% reduction in fuel costs, a 50% reduction in maintenance, and a 66% noise reduction during takeoff and landing, with all-electric aircraft with zero CO2 emissions.