Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Joseph Mello


The feasibility of converting an existing internal combustion powered general aviation aircraft to battery electric propulsion was studied. The theoretical performance of various types of airframes with battery electric propulsion systems was compared to determine which type of airframe would be best suited for conversion. It was found that battery electric propulsion is best used in aircraft intended for slow speed, efficient flight and carrying limited payload which is a mission typically flown in motor gliders. A reference motor glider was selected and a conceptual power system packaging design study was performed. The study determined that a critical component of the power system packaging design was the technical feasibility of packaging the batteries inside of the wing structure. This was driven by center of gravity restrictions. Technical concerns related to a battery-in-wing design were investigated, included wing aeroelastic performance, wing stiffness and wing strength. The results showed that aeroelastic flutter was not a driving design criteria for the reference airframe used as the physical size of the battery did not allow for them to be packaged in wing locations that detrimentally affected flutter performance. The battery packaging layout was instead driven by access for battery maintenance, battery safety and the battery thermal management system. Overall weight change from packaging the batteries in the wing compared to the fuselage was found to be negligible. The resulting aircraft conceptual design indicated a powered flight range with reserves of over 200 miles and a powered flight endurance of greater than 3 hours with 2 persons onboard.