Rolls-Royce confirms all-electric aircraft has reached speeds of over 555km/h

Electric aircraft are not just taking to the skies, they are smashing records too. With the nascent zero emission aviation sector continuing to defy decades of engineering predictions through a wave of demonstration flights, Rolls Royce today announced that its ‘Spirit of Innovation’ plane has had two successful world record attempts independently confirmed.

The engineering giant said that at 15.45GMT on 16 November 2021, its all-electric aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over three kilometres, smashing 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, fully 292.8km/h (182 mph) faster than the previous record.

Both records have now been officially verified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the World Air Sports Federation that controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records.

In addition, Rolls Royce said that during its record-breaking runs the aircraft hit a maximum top speed of 623km/h (387.4mph) making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

And the aircraft also achieved the fastest time to climb to 3,000 metres in a time of 202 seconds, breaking the current record by 60 seconds, although the achievement is still going through the verification process.

Warren East, CEO at Rolls-Royce, said the records represented a “fantastic achievement” for the company and the wider UK government-backed ACCEL or ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project.

“I would like to thank our partners and especially aviation start-up Electroflight, for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough,” he said. “The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market. 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 milestones were also welcomed by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng who hailed the Spirit of Innovation aircraft as “yet more proof of the UK’s enviable credentials when it comes to innovation”.

“This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life,” he added. “The government is proud to back projects like this to leverage the private investment necessary to unlock cleaner, greener aircraft which will allow people to fly as they do now, but in a way that cuts emissions.”

Rolls Royce said the record-breaking runs were made possible by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the “most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace”, which were developed in partnership with aviation energy storage start-up Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.

The company said that in addition to setting records the test flights provided data in support of the company’s plans to develop all-electric urban air mobility (UAM) technologies and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft.

The project is one of a host of initiatives around the world that are fast demonstrating how electric and hydrogen-fuelled aircraft are technically feasible and could help slash emissions across the aviation sector in the coming decades in conjunction with the emergence of sustainable aviation fuels.

Rolls Royce and others are increasingly confident that all-electric and hybrid aircraft could operate on short haul routes in the future, providing a zero or low emission alternative to conventional aircraft.

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