Rolls-Royce said that its all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft has set three new world speed records, making it the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft. The company has submitted data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI)— the World Air Sports Federation which controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records—that at 15:45 (GMT) on 16 November 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 (132mph).
In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defense’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15 kilometers—292.8km/h (182mph) faster than the previous record—and broke the fastest time to climb to 3000 meters by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds. Rolls-Royce is looking to the the FAI to certify and officially confirm the achievements of the team in the near future.
During its record-breaking runs, the aircraft clocked up a maximum speed of 623 km/h (387.4 mph)—making the Spirit of Innovation the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle, the company said.
Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. I would like to thank our partners and especially 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. 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.—Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce
The Spirit of Innovation is part of the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) project. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
The aircraft was propelled on its record-breaking runs by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled for aerospace application. Rolls-Royce worked in partnership with aviation energy storage specialist Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.
As well as a stunning technical achievement, the project and world record runs provided important data for future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. The characteristics that air-taxis require from batteries, for example, are very similar to what was developed for the Spirit of Innovation, the company said.
Rolls-Royce has a history of flying speed record attempts and breaking records, dating back to the Schneider Trophies of the early 1930s. 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. Never in the history of the FAI record attempts has there been such a significant increase in speed over such a short time, highlighting the rapid pace at which electrification of aerospace is advancing, Rolls-Royce said.
Electric flight is set to be as transformative for mobility as the jet engine was 70 years ago. It’s thrilling to see our ultra-high performance, super-low weight electric motors powering the Spirit of Innovation to these great speeds, and to know that collaborative projects like ACCEL take us one step closer to emissions-free electric flight becoming a commercial reality for all.—Dr Tim Woolmer, YASA’s Chief Technology Officer and Founder
The ACCEL program has also been supported by Jaguar Land Rover, which loaned all-electric zero emission Jaguar I-PACE cars as towing and support vehicles, and Bremont, the luxury watchmaker and official timing partner for the record attempt.
The aircraft took off from the MoD’s Boscombe Down site, which is managed by QinetiQ and flew profiles according to the FAI guidelines for record attempts in the Powered Aeroplane C-1C Electric class. Test Pilot, Electroflight Steve Jones flew the Spirit of Innovation aircraft for the 15km and the time to climb to 3000 meters record runs that have been submitted.