Maiden flight for Rolls-Royce’s new electric airplane

The electric airplane developed by Rolls-Royce for speed records has successfully completed its maiden flight. The 367 kW machine named Spirit of Innovation took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site and flew for about 15 minutes.

The initiators described the maiden flight as another step on the aviation industry’s path to being more environment friendly. Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce, says that it was not just about breaking a world record:

“The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this program has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality.”

The electric airplane is part of the ACCEL initiative, short for Accelerating the Electrification of Flight. When the design was unveiled, it was still said that the record-breaking flight would take place in “late spring 2020”. It took a bit longer than that. Rolls Royce isn’t the only Company working on Electric Planes. A couple weeks ago we reported that German Logistics firm DHL ordered 12 electric aircraft from Eviation.

Rolls Royce Spirit Electric Plane

The propulsion system of the Spirit of Innovation consists of three axially arranged electric motors, which produce 367 kW combined. The propeller is to rotate at up to 2,400 revolutions per minute when the aircraft reaches the targeted speed of 300 miles per hour (480 km/h). The power comes from more than 6,000 cells, according to Rolls-Royce.

Rolls-Royce initially completed ground tests with the aircraft in October 2020. Now, the “intensive flight test phase” following the maiden flight will collect valuable performance data on the electric power and propulsion system of the.

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Other partners involved in the ACCEL programme are electric motor and control unit manufacturer Yasa and aviation start-up Electroflight. Half of the project funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) in collaboration with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

Rolls-Royce says it will use the technology from the ACCEL project in the future and apply it to products for new markets. The manufacturer says it already offers complete electric drive systems for eVTOLs or commuter aircraft. The British company says that the characteristics that air taxis require from batteries are very similar to those being developed for the Spirit of Innovation to enable it to reach speeds of 300+ mph (480+ km/h).

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