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‘Spirit of Innovation’ officially the fastest-ever all-electric aircraft

Posted on 20 Jan 2022 and read 973 times
‘Spirit of Innovation’ officially the fastest-ever all-electric aircraftPic: creditsjohnmdibbs

Rolls-Royce’s all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft has been crowned as the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, having set two new world records which have now been independently confirmed. The aircraft reached a top speed of 345.4mph over 3km on 16 November, officially smashing the existing record by 132mph.

In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 330mph over 182mph faster than the previous record.

Both records have now been officially verified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the World Air Sports Federation that controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records. During its record-breaking runs, the aircraft, which is part of the UK Government-backed ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ (ACCEL) project, also clocked up a maximum top speed of 387.4mph making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

A third world record — the fastest time for an electric aircraft to climb to 3,000m in a time of 202sec — breaking the current record by 60sec — is still going through the verification process.

Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East, said: “Achieving the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. I would like to thank our partners and especially aviation start-up Electroflight, for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough. The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market. This is another milestone that will help make ‘jet zero’ a reality and supports our ambitions to deliver the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea.”

Half of the ACCEL project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), said: “The ACCEL project demonstrates that strategic investment in UK technology and innovation can achieve extraordinary world-beating results, and sets us firmly on the path to decarbonising passenger flight in the future. This achievement of Rolls-Royce, Electroflight and YASA will resonate for many years to come and inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers. They deserve their place in the record books and the ATI is proud to have played its part in that.”

The aircraft was propelled on its record breaking runs by a 400kW electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace. Rolls-Royce worked in partnership with aviation energy storage start-up Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.

As well as a stunning technical achievement, the project and world record runs provided important data for our future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility (UAM) and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. The characteristics that ‘air-taxis’ require from batteries, for instance, are very similar to what was developed for the ‘Spirit of Innovation’.

Rolls-Royce’s involvement in the ACCEL project is just one of the ways in which it is looking to make aviation more sustainable. In June last year, the company announced its pathway to ‘net zero’ carbon emissions – a year on from joining the UN Race to Zero campaign.