- Rolls-Royce says its Spirit of Innovation plane is the “world’s fastest all-electric aircraft.”
- The plane’s top speed clocked in at 387.4 mph (623km/h) (623km/h), which is more than 132 mph (212km/h) (212km/h) faster than the old record-holder.
- Rolls Royce CEO Warren East hopes the advanced technology will contribute to a “jet-zero” industry.
British aircraft manufacturing company Rolls-Royce launched its new “Spirit of Innovation” all-electric plane on September 15, propelled by the industry’s most power-dense battery ever engineered for an aircraft.
For its first flight, the plane took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, which has a long history of experimental flying, and soared for about 15 minutes.
According to Rolls-Royce, the flight is the start of an “intense flight-testing phase” to collect “valuable performance data on the aircraft’s electrical power and propulsion system.”
The Spirit of Innovation is part of Rolls-Royce’s “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight” program, which is funded by the UK government. The technology developed in the program will help battle climate change and “play a fundamental role in enabling the future of low-carbon flight.”
While the plane’s mission is to offer a solution for decarbonization, the company is also focused on breaking world records with the aircraft’s 400kW (500+ horsepower) electric powertrain, and it did just that.
On November 16, just two months after completing its first-ever flight, Rolls-Royce’s “Spirit of Innovation” all-electric aircraft has potentially set three world speed records.
According to the company, the plane clocked in at 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph (555km/h)) across three kilometers (1.86 miles), which beats the current 213.04 km/h (132 mph (212km/h) (212km/h)) record.
Moreover, Rolls-Royce believes the plane beat the speed record across 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) by 239.3km/h (149 mph (240km/h)), reaching 532.1km/h (330 mph (531km/h)).
The company says the plane also had the fastest climb to 3000 meters, which the plane achieved in 202 seconds. The previous record was 262 seconds.
During its test runs, the plane reached a maximum speed of 623 km/h (387.4 mph (623km/h) (623km/h)), and the company is certain this makes the plane the fastest all-electric aircraft in the world.
Rolls-Royce has submitted its data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the organization that controls aeronautical world records, for certification.
Rolls-Royce director of operations Phil O’Dell piloted the extraordinary flight. According to the company, O’Dell’s top speed was 213.04 km/h (132 mph (212km/h) (212km/h)) faster than the record set by Siemens’ Extra 330 LE Aerobatic plane in 2017. Rolls-Royce acquired Siemens’ “eAircraft” business in 2019.
“This is the highlight of my career and is an incredible achievement for the whole team. The opportunity to be at the forefront of another pioneering chapter of Rolls-Royce’s story as we look to deliver the future of aviation is what dreams are made of,” O’Dell said.
Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East attributed the feat to the plane’s advanced battery and propulsion technology, explaining it has “exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market.” AAM uses electric planes to move people and cargo in places underserved by ground transportation or existing modes of aviation.
In particular, the company said the batteries needed for air-taxi vehicles, which are part of AAM, are extremely similar to the ones engineered for the Spirit of Innovation.
“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 decarbonize transport across air, land and sea,” Ward said.