Rolls-Royce has successfully taxied its ‘Spirit of Innovation’ all-electric aircraft, a critical step in testing ahead of actual flight testing, and an important milestone towards the company’s plans to set a new record for the world’s fastest all-electric plane.
The Spirit of Innovation successfully propelled itself along a runway, powered by its 500hp [400kw] electric powertrain and its advanced battery system.
Hopes for the Spirit of Innovation is that it will be able to reach speeds of more than 480km/h (300mph), though at the moment its taxiing speed is somewhat less inspiring.
We first heard word of a Rolls-Royce ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) electric plane back in early 2019, at which point the company’s project manager boasted that the plane would be powered by a state-of-the-art electric system and “the most powerful battery ever built for flight”.
According to the ACCEL website, the Spirit of Innovation’s battery pack includes 6,000 cells and will provide enough energy to fly 200 miles, or from London to Paris, on a single charge.
The battery will power three 750R lightweight electric motors manufactured by British electric motors company YASA, which together will deliver over 500 horsepower to the propeller at a lower RPM than a conventional airplane, which will result in increased stability and less noise.
“Electrification of flight is an important part of our sustainability strategy as we aim for net zero carbon by 2050,” said Rob Watson, Director, Rolls-Royce Electrical.
“Taxiing of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is an incredible milestone for the ACCEL team as we progress to first flight and the world-record attempt later this year. For 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.
“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.”
Beyond developing a record-beating electric plane, Rolls-Royce is using the technology from its ACCEL project and applying it to products for the market, and is currently planning on supplying a portfolio of motors, power electronics, and batteries to the general aerospace, urban air mobility, and small commuter aircraft sectors.
Half of the funding for the ACCEL project is provided by the British Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK.
“The taxiing of Rolls-Royce’s ‘Spirit of Innovation’ forms part of an exciting new chapter in aviation as we move towards its first flight in the spring,” added UK’s Minister for Business Paul Scully.