The aircraft being built by Rolls-Royce for an attempt on the world speed record for electric aeroplane has successfully completed the first stage of testing – runway taxi runs.
It was the first critical test of the aircraft, called ‘Spirit of Innovation’, and its 500hp [400kw] electric powertrain and energy storage technology.
The first flight is planned for the Spring. Rolls-Royce says that at full power, the combination of electrical powertrain and advanced battery system will power the aircraft to more than 300mph, setting a new world speed record for electric flight.
The Rolls-Royce ACCEL programme, short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight,’ includes key partners YASA, which makes electric motors and controllers, and aviation start-up Electroflight.
The ACCEL team have continued to build the aircraft while adhering to the government’s social distancing and other health guidelines.
Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical, said, “Electrification of flight is an important part of our sustainability strategy as we aim for net zero carbon by 2050.
“Taxying of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is an incredible milestone for the ACCEL team as we progress to first flight and the world-record attempt later this year.
“For the first time, the plane propelled itself forward using the power from an advanced battery and propulsion system that is ground-breaking in terms of electrical technology.
“This system and the capabilities being developed will help position Rolls-Royce as a technology leader offering power systems to the Urban Air Mobility market.”
Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
Rolls-Royce points out that the characteristics ‘air-taxis’ require from batteries are similar to what is being developed for the ‘Spirit of Innovation’. Rolls-Royce will be using the technology from the ACCEL project and applying it to products for the market.
“We are bringing a portfolio of motors, power electronics and batteries into the general aerospace, urban air mobility and small commuter aircraft sectors as part of our electrification strategy,” said the company.
“The ACCEL project is part of Rolls-Royce’s journey towards net zero carbon by 2050 and we are also looking to inspire young people, through the ACCEL project, to consider careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
“We have developed downloadable materials aimed at primary school children around the project. These are linked to the UK curriculum and everything can be downloaded from our website.”