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Rolls-Royce Takes Off in All-Electric Plane 'Spirit of Innovation'

Not only is Rolls-Royce making strides to change the automotive industry, but they are also simultaneously combating the aviation industry, and winning! Out of the grate, they are breaking records and rapidly proving changes can happen quickly. 

Amie-Lynn Mitchell

Content Creator

In the recent past, Rolls-Royce has been busy working on their electric-powered airplane dubbed Spirit of Innovation. In September, the plane made its debut test flight, taking off from the UK's Ministry of Defence Boscombe Down site for a short 15-minute excursion. A few weeks later, Roll Royce had the plane ready for its first extended flight.

Boscombe Down site has been a significant location for experimental flights, and 'Spirit of Innovations' first flight marked the beginning of a rigorous flight-testing phase that will help collect vital performance information on the plane's electrical power and propulsion system.

Two months later, the 'Spirit of Innovation' took off the same test site to impressively claim the new world record as the fastest Electric vehicle on the planet. The awing feat was somewhat remarkable considering the plane had only been in the air for a few hours in total.

After the flight, Rolls Royce submitted the data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) – the international governing body for air sports. The organization confirmed that the 'Spirit of Innovation' reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h - flying for over 3 kilometres. The previous EV World record was held by the Extra 330 LE, which earned a top speed of 337.50 km/h in March 2017.

On top of being the fastest all-electric powered, Rolls-Royce added that in the day's later flights, the aircraft reached 532.1 km/h over 15km – smashing the previous record by 292.8km/h. The Rolls-Royce electric plane also achieved the fastest climb time to 3000m with only 202 seconds, beating the previous record by 60 seconds.

During the runs, the plane reached a maximum speed of 623km/h, making it the fastest battery-electric vehicle ever made. Rolls-Royce's CEO, Warren East, acknowledged that earning the title of the world's most rapid all-electric vehicle is a fantastic achievement for the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) project.

According to the British multinational aerospace company, the plane was powered by a 400kW electric powertrain to deliver an outstanding 500 horsepower. With 6,480 cells, it is the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever engineered in the aviation industry. The data collected during the flights will benchmark future electric-powered propulsion systems for battery-electric aircraft and hybrid-electric commuter air mobility.

The Spirit of Innovation is a classic 'tail-dragger airplane with a pushed-back canopy. Its eye-catching design is appealing to the eye and very practical and helps with the plane's aerodynamics.

According to RR's business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, the flights of the revolutionary all-electric plane play a significant role in the worldwide transition to cleaner forms of air transportation. The achievement is a win for Roll-Royce and the United Kingdom as a whole, for proving to be global leaders in aerospace innovation.

Government backing of the ACCEL project and other similar projects is propelling the innovative technologies that will pull investments and bring the world cleaner, greener, more sustainable solutions. The ACCEL team strictly adhered to the UK Government's social distancing measures and other required health guidelines during the entire innovation process. The project was partly funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in conjunction with the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. ATI has been funding projects such as ACCEL to help the UK solidify its position as a significant player in developing new and secure capabilities and technologies that will lead towards decarbonized aviation.

In a press statement by RR, Gary Elliot congratulated everyone involved in the ACCEL project for making the maiden flight a reality. RR aims at delivering an all-electric propulsion system to their customers, whether it is an electrical vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) or commuter aircraft.

RR will be using the data and technology from the innovative ACCEL project to apply to its products for the emerging new market. Rolls-Royce and Tecnam have also partnered with Widerøe – the leading regional airline in Scandinavia – in a bid to deliver an all-electric commuter aircraft that is planned to be ready for operations in 2026.

Earlier in the year, RR announced the plans for the journey towards net zero carbon emissions just a year after joining the UN Race to Zero Campaign. The global Campaign seeks to rally support and leadership from governments, businesses, and investors for a sustainable zero-carbon recovery to prevent future environmental and economic threats. It also seeks to create decent jobs, offset inequality, and promote sustainable growth.

The' Spirit of Innovation' is a clear indication that the multinational holding company is on a pathway of developing new technologies that will accelerate the adoption of sustainable fuels. Although the company acknowledges that there is no single solution to the net-zero goal, sustainable fuels are crucial for the decarbonization of the transportation industry.

RR believes in the positive transformation that new innovative technologies can bring about. The company engineers solutions that are key to the successful and sustainable functioning of the modern world. To combat the ever-worsening climate crisis, RR believes that power must be made compatible with zero carbon emissions.

Roll Royce provides products and services in multiple industries, including shipping, aviation, and energy generation, some of the most challenging sectors to reduce carbon emissions. However, they are committed to providing innovations that will enable the global transition to net zero. These innovations are crucial in helping the world achieve the net-zero goal by the year 2050.

The multinational giant has already pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from the facilities and operations by 2030. To stand by their word, RR is already working to develop all-electric and hybrid-electric technologies across various areas, including microgrids, fuel cells, and small modular nuclear reactors. The company expects to certify its new generation of MTU engines for sustainable fuels by 2023.

The MTU Series 2000 and Series 4000 are some of the most popular engines used in power generation, rail, and shipping. By reducing the emissions associated with the systems by 35% by 2030.

The future of our planet depends on our ability to develop and adopt new innovative technologies that will change the way we solve our everyday problems, and Rolls Royce is undoubtedly at the forefront of this transformative change.