Rolls-Royce backs batteries for aircraft with £80m investment


Aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce is to invest £80 million (US$110 million) and create 300 jobs in battery packs for aircraft by 2030.

The company said its battery packs, each of which will contain around 10,000 cells, will enable flights of more than 100 miles on a single charge and use cooling systems to deal with the heat generated by the high-current demands of flight.

The battery packs, which the company is now calling energy storage systems, will be suitable for use in hybrid-electric propulsion systems for eVTOL and fixed-wing aircraft with up to 19 seats.

By 2035 Rolls-Royce aims to be integrating more than five million battery cells per annum into modular systems.

Rob Watson, director of electrical at Rolls-Royce said, “We are developing a portfolio of energy storage solutions to complement our electrical propulsion systems. This will ensure that we can offer our customers a complete electric propulsion system for their platform, whether that is an eVTOL or a commuter aircraft.

“It will enable us to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for all-electric or hybrid-electric propulsion systems, which is incredibly exciting as these new markets develop and expand.”

Rolls-Royce said it has designed 10 different aerospace battery systems and that four have already flown in three aircraft, accumulating 250 hours of flight time.

The company plans to fly its Spirit of Innovation aircraft in an attempt to break the world-speed record later this year using a battery pack developed by Rolls-Royce engineers and manufactured by UK-company Electroflight.

The company is also working with airframer Tecnam on the Widerøe regional passenger aircraft, which is planned to enter service in 2026.

Rolls-Royce also has research links with the University of Warwick through its High Value Manufacturing Catapult which has knowledge and experience gained through supporting automotive development of batteries.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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