Rolls-Royce announced in January 2019 their intent to break the world air speed record by an all-electric aircraft, which currently is held by a Siemens-powered Extra 330 at 182 kts, a record set in 2017. The company has now completed all ground-testing and is preparing for the first flight. The airplane is part of a larger initiative called ACCEL, short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’, which should ensure Rolls-Royce keeps its leadership position as an engine manufacturer even in an electric propulsion market, as well as achieve the goals set in their sustainability strategy. The company wants to have a net zero carbon footbrint by 2050, and ACCEL is one of the first steps in that journey.
The aircraft will be powered by a 500hp electric motor and a battery “with enough energy to supply 250 homes”, which should propel it to over 300mph. During the tests the propeller was run at its full speed of 2,400rpm to stress-test the battery. It is claimed to be the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for aircraft propulsion, with over 6,000 cells. The first flight is supposed to take place in 2020, with the record attempt happening early in 2021.
Rolls-Royce is committed to playing a leading role in reaching net zero carbon by 2050. The completion of ground-testing for the ACCEL project is a great achievement for the team and is another important step towards a world record attempt. This project is also helping to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we remain a leader in delivering the electrification of flight, an important part of our sustainability strategy.
– Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical
The significance of reaching this milestone should not be underestimated. The ACCEL team is pioneering the integration of high-performance batteries, motors and drives to deliver an electric propulsion system in an ambitious flight test programme. These technologies and the systems integration needed to utilise them hold great potential for future sustainable aviation, which is why the ATI is proud to support the project.
– Mark Scully, Head of Technology for Advanced Systems & Propulsion at the Aerospace Technology Institute