Rolls-Royce announced that its all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft is officially the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, having set two new world records which have now been independently confirmed. At 15.45 GMT on Nov. 16, 2021, the aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometers, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132 mph). 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 kilometers – 292.8km/h (182 mph) faster than the previous record. Both records have been officially verified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the World Air Sports Federation that controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records. During its record-breaking runs, the aircraft, which is part of the UK Government-backed ACCEL or ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project, also clocked up a maximum top speed of 623 km/h (387.4mph) making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.
“Achieving the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce,” said Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East. “I would like to thank our partners and especially aviation start-up 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. 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.”
Half of the ACCEL project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
“Rolls-Royce’s revolutionary Spirit of Innovation aircraft is yet more proof of the UK’s enviable credentials when it comes to innovation,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said. “This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life. 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.”
Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), said: “The ACCEL project demonstrates that strategic investment in UK technology and innovation can achieve extraordinary world-beating results, and sets us firmly on the path to decarbonizing passenger flight in the future. This achievement of Rolls-Royce, Electroflight and YASA will resonate for many years to come and inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers. They deserve their place in the record books and the ATI is proud to have played our part in that. Congratulations to the whole team.”
The aircraft was propelled by 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and “the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace,” Rolls-Royce said. The project and world record runs provided important data for future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility (UAM) and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft the company stresses.
The speed achieved by test pilot and Rolls-Royce Director of Flight Operations Phill O’Dell in the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ was more than 213.04 km/h (132 mph) faster than the previous record set by the Siemens eAircraft powered Extra 330 LE Aerobatic aircraft in 2017. The significant increase in speed over such a short timeframe highlights the rapid pace at which the electrification of aerospace is advancing. Electroflight Pilot Steve Jones flew the Spirit of Innovation aircraft for the 15-km record run.
“Breaking the world record for all-electric flight is a momentous occasion,” O’Dell said. “This is the highlight of my career and is an incredible achievement for 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.”