The British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce ambitions to build the fastest all-electric aircraft in the world. Designed in partnership with Electroflight and YASA, the plane is expected to reach a record speed of more than 480 km/h (300 mph) by the end of spring 2020.
The aircraft, unveiled at Gloucestershire Airport (GLO), is part of an initiative called Accelerating Flight Electrification (ACCEL). To reach its ambitious goal, Rolls-Royce allied with two British companies: YASA, a manufacturer of high-power, lightweight electric motors, and Electroflight, a start-up specializing in high-performance electric powertrains including energy storage systems.
Half of the project is state-funded through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), partnered with the British Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as well as Innovate UK. “The UK has a proud heritage and enviable worldwide reputation for advances in aviation technology,” Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, adding “the electrification of flight has the potential to revolutionize the way we travel and transform aviation for decades to come – ensuring we can travel worldwide while maintaining a low carbon footprint.”
The battery designed for ACCEL will be the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft and should store enough energy to fuel 250 homes or fly from London to Paris on a single charge. Work is now ongoing to integrate into the airframe an electric propulsion system that uses a propeller-driven by three axial electric motors with high power density, which should give it more than 500 horsepower for its record run.
The objective is to break the record for the fastest zero-emission aircraft by the end of Spring 2020. Siemens currently holds that record with Extra 330LE, with a speed of 344 km/h (214 mph) reached in March 2017. Rolls-Royce expects to pulverize that number with a top speed of at least 480 km/h (300 mph).