Rolls-Royce completes testing of technology to power world’s fastest all-electric plane. The technology has been tested on a replica of a full-scale plane’s core called an ‘ionBird’. This includes a 500hp electric powertrain strong enough to set the world speed records and a battery with ample energy to supply 250 homes. The plane is a component of the Rolls-Royce initiative called ACCEL or ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’. The ACCEL project team has partners YASA, electric motor and controller manufacturer, including aviation start-up Electroflight. The team has been focused on developing the technology while complying with the UK’s social distancing and health guidelines. The systems will be integrated into the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ plane.
UK Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “From trains to planes, our transport of the future will be powered by clean, electric sources – with companies like Rolls-Royce developing the tech to help meet our net zero ambitions. The completion of ground-testing for the government-backed ACCEL project is not only a step towards an exciting world record attempt, but a leap towards developing all-electric and hybrid-electric planes that one day could ferry large numbers of passengers around the world.”
Rob Watson, Director – Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “Rolls-Royce is committed to playing a leading role in reaching net zero carbon by 2050. The completion of ground-testing for the ACCEL project is a great achievement for the team and is another important step towards a world record attempt. This project is also helping to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we remain a leader in delivering the electrification of flight, an important part of our sustainability strategy.”
The initial flight is planned for later this year as it aims to beat the current all-electric flight world record early next year. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute that has partnered with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
Mark Scully, Head of Technology for Advanced Systems & Propulsion at the Aerospace Technology Institute, said: “The significance of reaching this milestone should not be underestimated. The ACCEL team is pioneering the integration of high-performance batteries, motors and drives to deliver an electric propulsion system in an ambitious flight test programme. These technologies and the systems integration needed to utilise them hold great potential for future sustainable aviation, which is why the ATI is proud to support the project.”