Rolls-Royce’s all-electric Spirit of Innovation is officially the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, having recently set two new world records which have now been independently confirmed.
First the aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometres, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph). In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15 kilometres – which is 292.8km/h (182 mph) faster than the previous record.
Both records have been officially verified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the World Air Sports Federation that controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records. During its record-breaking runs, the aircraft, which is part of the UK Government-backed ACCEL or ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project, also clocked up a maximum top speed of 623km/h (387.4mph) making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.
A third “official” record for an all-electric aircraft; the fastest time to climb to 3000 metres, was achieved in a time of 202 seconds and is going through the verification process. It will break the standing record by 60 seconds.
The aircraft was propelled on its record breaking runs by 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace. Rolls-Royce worked in partnership with aviation energy storage start-up Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.
As well as a stunning technical achievement, says Rolls-Royce, the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for the programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market. The characteristics that air-taxis require from batteries, for instance, are very similar to what was developed for the Spirit of Innovation.
Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said, “Achieving the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. 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.”
British government Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, “This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life. The government is proud to back projects like this to leverage the private investment necessary to unlock cleaner, greener aircraft which will allow people to fly as they do now, but in a way that cuts emissions.”
Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), said, “The ACCEL project demonstrates that strategic investment in technology and innovation can achieve extraordinary world-beating results, and sets us firmly on the path to decarbonising passenger flight in the future. This achievement of Rolls-Royce, Electroflight and YASA will resonate for many years to come and inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers.”
Rolls-Royce adds that never before in the history of the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) record attempts has there been such a significant increase in speed over such a short timeframe, highlighting the rapid pace at which the electrification of aerospace is advancing.
Dr Tim Woolmer, YASA’s Chief Technology Officer and Founder said, “Electric flight is set to be as transformative for mobility as the jet engine was 70 years ago. It’s thrilling to see our ultra-high performance, super-low weight electric motors powering the Spirit of Innovation to these great speeds, and to know that collaborative projects like ACCEL take us one step closer to emissions-free electric flight becoming a commercial reality for all.”