The decarbonization of commercial aviation in the coming decades represents a formidable challenge. For ranges of less than several hundred miles, all-electric battery-powered aircraft have the potential to be attractive solutions. However, for longer ranges, the appreciably greater specific energy of fuels will continue to be required. Nevertheless, our climate crisis mandates that these fuels must be synthesized in a carbon-neutral manner, and consequently, they are likely to be considerably more expensive than their fossil-derived counterparts. These challenges will result in even more impetus to make future propulsion systems more efficient — regardless of whether that energy is contained within batteries or fuels. Electrified propulsion systems are potential enablers for our transition to this future through their ability to facilitate the integration of disparate storage and conversion technologies into a single hybrid system that offers high conversion efficiency at an acceptable weight. In this paper, progress made in the development of such systems within the ARPA-E ASCEND and REEACH programs is described.

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