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Honeywell-DENSO Connect on Clean Electric Engine Concepts

Honeywell-DENSO Connect on Clean Electric Engine Concepts

You might say Honeywell and DENSO made an electric connection from the start. These two large and successful industry leaders – one in aerospace and one in automotive – are on a quest to shrink aviation’s environmental footprint. They are working together to develop clean, efficient electric propulsion systems for current and future aircraft, with an emphasis on the emerging urban air mobility (UAM) segment.

The two companies have much in common, including storied histories in state-of-the-art technology development, business successes, and unwavering commitments to safety, quality and sustainability.

“You might say that Honeywell and DENSO mirror one another in our respective industries,” noted Dave Shilliday, Vice President and General Manager for Power Systems at Honeywell Aerospace. “In fact, we think of DENSO as the Honeywell of the automotive world and vice versa. We have very compatible cultures, which include a passion for making the world a better place.”

For starters, the two companies are working on a small but powerful electric motor for the new Lilium Jet, the world’s first all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle. Weighing about four kilograms (under nine pounds), the eMotor has an output of 100kW and will generate zero operating emissions.

The Lilium Jet eMotor is the first Honeywell-DENSO electric propulsion solution, but it won’t be the last, according to Shilliday. “This new 100-kilowatt motor for the Lilium Jet is a major milestone in our alliance with DENSO,” he said. “And brilliant engineers at both companies are already designing further solutions for the future of aviation, which will be cleaner, greener and more electric. We’ve just scratched the surface of this combination’s full potential.” 

The DENSO and Honeywell teams have been working together since 2019 to design, develop, produce, and sell electric propulsion systems for electric and hybrid-electric aircraft, starting with UAM aircraft like air taxis and delivery vehicles.

The alliance between the two companies, formalized in early 2021, makes enormous sense, according to Koji Ishizuka, DENSO Senior Director of the Electric Sora-Mobi Business Promotion Department. “These two companies are strong, well-known, and well-regarded in their respective industries. But we’re even more impactful working together to deliver the benefits of electrification in aviation.”

In 2019, DENSO decided to enter the aviation market, he said. “We had relevant electrification technologies, but we recognized there’s a big difference between the automotive and aerospace industries. We needed a partner that understood aerospace requirements and could help us be successful. In Honeywell, we found a partner with an aligned philosophy, and it’s proven to be a good match.”

DENSO is a leading supplier of mobility systems for the auto industry, including developing and producing powertrain technologies for cars and light trucks, including hybrid-electric, battery-electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles. The company has been a leading supplier to the world’s top automakers for more than 70 years.

Honeywell products, services, and software solutions can be found on all kinds of aircraft and spacecraft. They include powerful, reliable, and fuel-efficient turbine propulsion engines, auxiliary power units, and turbogenerators. Honeywell has more than a century of aerospace experience under its belt. 

DENSO and Honeywell bring complementary strengths to the table, according to Shilliday. “Honeywell understands the aerospace industry,” he said. “We have unparalleled expertise in aerospace integration and certification, which will be essential for enabling the adoption and commercialization of these next-generation air vehicles. We also know how to reduce component size and weight, which becomes even more important given the size of the UAM vehicles in development.”

But when it comes to manufacturing, aerospace companies like Honeywell normally produce high-precision, high-quality products in relatively small volumes, he continued. “On the other hand, DENSO is in the automotive industry, which specializes in producing quality products, economically and at scale. That’s exactly what we’ll need to be successful in the UAM market.”

That’s because the UAM market is expected to grow at 30% per year through the end of the decade, with the number of aircraft flying globally soaring into the hundreds of thousands by 2040. Then, multiply the number of aircraft by the number of motors each will require – which can range from six to 10 to 30, according to Ishizuka.

“That’s why component weight is an important design consideration for us as we move into the aerospace market,” he pointed out. “In aerospace, if the weight of a motor is increased by one kilogram, it can add considerable weight to the overall platform. This is a case where DENSO engineers can learn from their Honeywell peers.”

The ability to learn from each other and take the best each company has to offer is paramount to the success of the Honeywell-DENSO collaboration, Shilliday said. “From Honeywell’s perspective, we’ve been very impressed with our DENSO partners, and we’re confident this arrangement will yield benefits for both companies, the aviation industry and – most importantly – the planet, for years to come.”

Ishizuka agrees. “Honeywell and DENSO share the utmost focus on sustainability,” he said. “We both have committed to achieving carbon neutrality in our own operations by 2035, and our products help customers reduce their environmental impact and achieve peace of mind in a safe and seamless world.” 

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