Rolls-Royce reveals 300mph electric aircraft


Rolls-Royce has unveiled the all-electric aircraft its engineers are developing it says will fly at speeds of more than 300mph by June this year.

The ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) project’s plane, which uses electric motors and controllers from YASA and aviation startup Electroflight, will set the world record for the fastest electric aircraft if it achieves its target speed of more than 300mph (+480km/h).

The £6.37 million (US$8.3 million) ACCEL program, half of which is being funded by the UK Government, is first developing the ionBird test airframe. IonBird is named after the electrical technology that propels the aircraft.

The ionBird will be used to test the propulsion system on the ground before it is fully integrated into the plane. Planned tests over the next couple of months include running the propulsion system up to full power as well as key airworthiness checks.

According to Rolls-Royce, ACCEL will have the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, which will provide enough energy to fly 200 miles on a single charge.

The aircraft battery’s 6,000 cells are packaged to minimize weight and maximize thermal protection. A cooling system is being used to ensure optimum performance by directly cooling cells during the high-power record runs.

The propeller is driven by three high power density axial electric motors which will deliver more than 500 horsepower for the record run, during which the electric powertrain will deliver power with 90% energy efficiency and zero emissions.

Rob Watson, director of Rolls-Royce Electrical said, “Building the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft is a  step change in aviation. This is not only an important step towards the world-record attempt but will also help to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we are at the forefront of developing technology that can play a fundamental role in enabling the transition to a low carbon global economy.”

Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute, the UK Government funding body partnering on ACCEL said,  “We are excited about the way it establishes a new and innovative supply chain, bringing together the best of the UK that includes cross-sector expertise, start-up energy and critical domain leadership”.

Rolls-Royce is also partnering with Airbus on the E-Fan X technology demonstrator project and with Widerøe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia on a joint research program to replace and electrify its regional fleet of more than 30 planes by 2030.

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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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