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Rolls-Royce stakes claim to world’s fastest all-electric vehicle


November 23, 2021
By Jon Robinson

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Electroflight Test Pilot Steve Jones flying the Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL project, Spirit of Innovation plane, at Boscombe Down testing site during world record runs in November 2021. (Photo: Rolls-Royce, John Dibbs)

Rolls-Royce claims its all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft to be the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, after setting three new world records, which have been submitted to Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) – the World Air Sports Federation, which controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records.

Rolls-Royce explains on November 16, 2021, at 15:45 (GMT) the Spirit of Innovation aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over three kilometres, surpassing 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 – 292.8km/h (182mph) faster than the previous record – and broke the fastest time to climb to 3,000 metres by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds, according to Rolls-Royce data.

During its record-breaking runs, Rolls-Royce states the aircraft clocked up a maximum speed of 623 km/h (387.4 mph), which the company believe to make the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

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“Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce,” said Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce. “I would like to thank our partners and especially Electroflight for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough.

“The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this program has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market,” East continued. “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.”

The Spirit of Innovation is part of the ACCEL or 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.

The aircraft was powered on its record breaking runs by a 400kW (500-plus horsepower) electric powertrain and what Rolls-Royce describe as the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace. To achieve this technical breakthrough, the company worked in partnership with aviation energy storage specialist Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.

Rolls-Royce explains the Spirit of Innovation project, working through ACCEL, provides important data for its future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. The characteristics that air-taxis require from batteries, explains the company, are very similar to what was developed for the Spirit of Innovation.

“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,” said Stjohn Youngman, Managing Director, Electroflight. “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.”