NASA’s X-57 ‘Maxwell’ is the agency’s first all-electric experimental aircraft, or X-Plane, and is NASA’s first crewed X-Plane in two decades.
The primary goal of the X-57 project is to share the aircraft’s electric-propulsion-focused design and airworthiness process with regulators, which will advance certification approaches for distributed electric propulsion in emerging electric aircraft markets.
The X-57 will undergo as many as three configurations as an electric aircraft, with the final configuration to feature 14 electric motors and propellers (12 high-lift motors along the leading edge of the wing and two large wingtip cruise motors).
The X-57 team is using a “design driver” as a technical challenge, to drive lessons learned, as well as best practices. This design driver includes a 500 percent increase in high-speed cruise efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions, and flight that is much quieter for the community on the ground.
The Maxwell is being built by modifying a baseline Italian Tecnam P2006T to be powered by an electric propulsion system. The advantage of using an existing aircraft design is that data from the baseline model, powered by traditional combustion engines, can be compared to data produced by the same model powered by electric propulsion.
The X-57 Maxwell project includes four configurations and stages of research, called modifications.
The design driver for X-57 will also seek to reach the goal of zero carbon emissions in flight, which would surpass the 2035 N+3 efficiency goals. Electric propulsion provides not only a five-to-10 times reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but it also provides a technology path for aircraft to eliminate 100 Low Lead AvGas, which is the leading contributor to current lead environmental emissions.
Additionally, since the X-57 will be battery-powered, it can run off renewable based electricity, making clear the environmental and economic advantages.
For more information on the X-57, visit https://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/programs_projects/electric_propulsion/index.html.