Optimal energy management for hybrid-electric aircraft

José Pedro Soares Pinto Leite*, Mark Voskuijl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: In recent years, increased awareness on global warming effects led to a renewed interest in all kinds of green technologies. Among them, some attention has been devoted to hybrid-electric aircraft – aircraft where the propulsion system contains power systems driven by electricity and power systems driven by hydrocarbon-based fuel. Examples of these systems include electric motors and gas turbines, respectively. Despite the fact that several research groups have tried to design such aircraft, in a way, it can actually save fuel with respect to conventional designs, the results hardly approach the required fuel savings to justify a new design. One possible path to improve these designs is to optimize the onboard energy management, in other words, when to use fuel and when to use stored electricity during a mission. The purpose of this paper is to address the topic of energy management applied to hybrid-electric aircraft, including its relevance for the conceptual design of aircraft and present a practical example of optimal energy management. Design/methodology/approach: To address this problem the dynamic programming (DP) method for optimal control problems was used and, together with an aircraft performance model, an optimal energy management was obtained for a given aircraft flying a given trajectory. Findings: The results show how the energy onboard a hybrid fuel-battery aircraft can be optimally managed during the mission. The optimal results were compared with non-optimal result, and small differences were found. A large sensitivity of the results to the battery charging efficiency was also found. Originality/value: The novelty of this work comes from the application of DP for energy management to a variable weight system which includes energy recovery via a propeller.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-861
Number of pages11
JournalAircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Dynamic programming
  • Flight performance
  • Hybrid aircraft
  • Optimal control
  • Optimal energy management


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