Rolls Royce, the British automaker is going electric, but do not expect another luxury electric vehicle. The luxury automaker is moving towards zero-emission air transportation with its electric plane dubbed the ‘world’s fastest plane’ which could one day redefine aviation. According to the Rolls Royce automaker, the all-electric aircraft has completed its first taxi run. So let’s look into all the juicy details regarding the new Rolls Royce electric plane!


Rolls Royce is a British-born multinational company known for building aircraft engines, apart from luxury automobiles. It is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of aircraft engines, second only to an American multinational conglomerate, General Electric. The company’s first aero engine was the Eagle, built-in in 1914. Around half the aircraft engines used by the Allies in World War, I was made by Rolls-Royce. Its jet engines have been used in a wide range of aircraft, including the world’s largest passenger plane—Airbus A380, and fighter jets like the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35. Even in a less popular line of business, Rolls Royce has also made nuclear reactors for power plants and submarines. Recently, the automaker made a massive comeback with its aircraft technology, this time, with a whole airplane and not just engines.

Rolls Royce unveiled Airplane Fully powered by electric motors


Rolls-Royce unveiled the airplane which is fully powered by electric motors and a battery named ‘the Spirit of Innovation.’ The electric plane is part of a Rolls-Royce initiative called ACCEL – short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight,’ and it is a key part of Rolls-Royce’s strategy to champion electrification. The ACCEL project aims to bring the luxury automaker journey towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Rolls Royce is not alone in this project, as it involves a host of partners including Oxford-based electric motor and controller manufacturer, YASA, and an aviation start-up, Electroflight located in Gloucestershire. The $8.3 million project is partially funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute—ATI in partnership with Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate, in the United Kingdom. In a recent press release, the Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute, Gary Elliott, said that the Aerospace Technology Institute is proud to co-fund the ACCEL project because the aims of ACCEL align with the long-term objectives of the ATI strategy which is to fund exciting and innovative technology development that secures a lead for the United Kingdom in next-generation zero-emission propulsion and to continue to support highly-skilled jobs and generate an economic return for the benefit of the United Kingdom.

The ‘Spirit of Innovation airplane is not only noteworthy for running solely on battery power but it is also designed to earn the title of the world’s fastest all-electric plane, as it targets a speed of above 300 miles per hour. By comparison, the current record was set in 2017 by an all-electric Siemens aircraft that topped out at only 210 miles per hour. Rob Watson, director of Rolls-Royce Electrical said: “Building the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft is nothing less than a revolutionary step change in aviation and we are delighted to unveil the ACCEL project plane.”

Rolls Royce Developed the ionBird test airframe


Rolls Royce first developed the ionBird test airframe for the electric plane. IonBird is named after the electrical technology that propels the electric plane, and it was used to test the propulsion system on the ground before it is fully integrated into the plane. Some of the major problems facing electric aircraft manufacturers are range, speed, and weight. To add range and speed, you need more power, which means adding weight in the form of extra banks of batteries. To help alleviate this, the ACCEL will be powered by a state-of-the-art 400 kiloWatt electrical powertrain and the most powerful battery ever created and developed for an aircraft to set a world speed record. The bird test airframe system includes three high-density axial 750R lightweight electric motors connected to the most power-dense battery pack featuring 6,000 battery cells. This will not only allow the propulsion system to deliver a maximum output of just over 1,000 horsepower but will also give the aircraft 200 miles of range on a single charge. The 6,000 cells in the battery pack are packaged in a way suitable to achieve maximum lightness and thermal protection. According to Rolls Royce, the all-electric powertrain also has an advanced cooling system that will directly protect the battery cells by keeping their temperatures down during high-speed runs. Its twin-propeller blades also spin at far lower revolutions per minute than that of a conventional plane, allowing for a more stable and quieter flight. The propellers which are driven by three high-power density axial electric motors designed and manufactured by YASA in the United Kingdom together with the entire system will deliver power with 90 percent energy efficiency even when pushed to the limit, and zero emissions. In comparison, a Formula 1 race car tops out at close to 50 percent energy efficiency. The single-passenger ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is small and sporty, with its cockpit positioned towards the rear of the plane, behind a long nose that gives it a shape reminiscent of a vintage roadster. The long nose designs serve the purpose of housing the battery pack needed to power the plane. The all-electric plane system is designed with sensors whose primary function is to collect in-flight information every second across more than 20,000 points, measuring the battery temperature, voltage, and general performance metrics. This is done for safety and performance purposes.

Recently, Rolls Royce took its spirit of innovation plane for its first test in the United Kingdom test site. The single-passenger, the zero-emissions electric airplane completed the taxiing test, making it 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. The taxiing is a critical test of the integration of the airplane’s propulsion system, ahead of the actual test flight.

Rolls Royce’s “Spirit of Innovation”

Rolls-Royce plans to take ‘Spirit of Innovation’ to the sky for its actual flight this year. If the 400 kiloWatt electric powertrain combined with the power-dense battery system can power the aircraft to more than 300 miles per hour, Rolls Royce will set a new world speed record for electric flight. So 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. Rolls-Royce announced the concept of this electric aircraft in 2019. And it’s looking beyond the direct consumer aspect of electrification. The company envisions the “Spirit of Innovation” as a technological blueprint for other future forms of transportation, including the bourgeoning urban air taxi sector. Rolls-Royce is confident that the battery developments driving the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ into the air are very similar to what urban air taxis will require which could one day ease congestion in our cities and cut journey times. The automobile company plans to use the technology from the ACCEL project and apply it to products for the market. So the idea is that Rolls Royce will bring a portfolio of motors, power electronics, and batteries into the general aerospace, urban air mobility, and small commuter aircraft sectors as part of their electrification strategy. Rolls-Royce has also partnered with Airbus on the E-Fan technology—a two-seater that was used as a demonstrator project, and with Widerøe, the largest regional airline in the Nordic countries on a joint research program to replace and electrify its regional fleet of more than 30 planes by 2030. Rolls-Royce invested £1.46 billion in research and development in 2019 and supports 29 university technology centers around the world, which helps put Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research. Rolls Royce made it known that the ACCEL project is part of its 2050 net-zero ambitions, and also efforts to inspire young people to consider Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—STEM careers. To this end, Rolls Royce has developed downloadable, curriculum-linked materials aimed at primary school children around the project. The electrification of flight has the potential to revolutionize the way we travel and transform aviation for decades to come ensuring we can travel all around the world while maintaining a low carbon footprint.

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