Rolls-Royce announced recently that its all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft is officially the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, having set two new world records which have now been independently confirmed. At 15.45 (GMT) on 16 November 2021, the aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometres, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph). In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15 kilometres – 292.8km/h (182 mph) faster than the previous record. Both records have 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 ACCEL or ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project, also clocked up a maximum top speed of 623km/h (387.4mph) making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.
Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, 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. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Rolls-Royce’s revolutionary Spirit of Innovation aircraft is yet more proof of the UK’s enviable credentials when it comes to innovation. This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life. The government is proud to back projects like this to leverage the private investment necessary to unlock cleaner, greener aircraft which will allow people to fly as they do now, but in a way that cuts emissions.”
The aircraft was propelled on its record breaking runs by 400kW (500+hp) 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’.