Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Innovation claims fastest electric aircraft world record


Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Innovation has reached a top speed of 555.9km/h (345.4mph) over 3km, beating the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph) onn 16 November 2021, according to Rolls-Royce.

The aircraft is powered by a 400kW (500+hp) all-electric powertrain with what Rolls-Royce claims is the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.

The aero engine manufacturer added that further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site saw the aircraft achieve 532.1km/h (330mph) over 15km – 292.8km/h (182mph) faster than the previous record – and broke the fastest time to climb to 3000m by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds.

During its flights, Spirit of Innovation achieved a maximum speed of 623km/h (387.4mph) which according to Rolls-Royce makes the Spirit of Innovation the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

“Flying the Spirit of Innovation at these incredible speeds and believing we have broken the world record for all-electric flight is a momentous occasion,” said Phill O’Dell, test pilot and Rolls-Royce director of Flight Operations. “This is the highlight of my career and is an incredible achievement for the whole team. The opportunity to be at the forefront of another pioneering chapter of Rolls-Royce’s story as we look to deliver the future of aviation is what dreams are made of.”

The Spirit of Innovation is part of the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) project. 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.

Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said: “Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market. Following the world’s focus on the need for action at COP26, 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.”

Spirit of Innovation has been developed as part of the ACCEL program (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) includes partners electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA and aviation start-up Electroflight. ACCEL is 50/50 funded by the UK Government and industry.

ACCEL is testing technology that Rolls-Royce intends to offer to the market in the form of a complete electric propulsion system for eVTOLs and commuter aircraft. According to Rolls-Royce the characteristics that many eVTOL air taxis require from batteries are similar to the features of the systems being developed for the Spirit of Innovation.

The project and world record runs will provide data for future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft.

Stjohn Youngman, managing director of Electroflight said, “Developing the propulsion and battery system, in collaboration with experienced program partners, has resulted in a world-class engineering capability that will lead the way towards the decarbonisation of air travel. Our next step is to adapt this pioneering technology so it can be applied across the wider aerospace industry to deliver a more sustainable way to fly.”

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