Rolls-Royce Is Gearing Up to Fly the World's Fastest Electric Plane
Rolls-Royce is planning to break the world record for the fastest all-electric plane. This week, the company detailed its plans for ACCEL, or “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight,” as it plans to send its plane over the skies of Great Britain in 2020 at speeds of up to and over 300 mph.
It’s a bold challenge, but the firm has the aerospace experience to make it happen, ranking as one of the largest manufacturers of airplane engines in the world. Rolls-Royce is using a number of innovations to make it happen, with the highest-density battery pack ever made for an aircraft that uses 6,000 cells to cover a range of 200 miles per charge, with cooling pumps to regulate the battery’s temperature. Three YASA 750R motors spin at a low number of rotations per minute compared to normal planes to smooth out the ride, sending out more than 500 horsepower combined and offering 750 kilowatts of power at its maximum.
The electric plane has plagued many experts as a major issue for consideration. Elon Musk has suggested as far back as 2009 that he was ready to make such a plane, but in 2017 claimed that energy density needs to reach 500 watt-hours per kilogram before an electric jet makes sense, far higher than the 250 kilowatt-hours found in a Tesla car battery. Siemens’ electric plane set the current speed record when it flew at 200 mph in April 2017. At the time, the firm claimed it would pave the way for a 100-passenger plane flying over 1,000 kilometers by 2030.
Rolls-Royce’s plane is only small, with a wingspan of 24 feet, but it paves the way for more ambitious designs like a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The design uses an all-electric powertrain to offer 90 percent energy efficiency, higher than the 50 percent typically seen with Formula 1 cars, with 20,000 sensor points providing data around the flight’s performance. Three electrically actuated blades on the front will rotate at 2,400 rotations per second. ACCEL has had big support during its 24-month development, with part funding from the British government ahead of the big event.
“In the year ahead, we’re going to demonstrate its abilities in demanding test environments before going for gold in 2020 from a landing strip on the Welsh coastline,” Matheu Parr, ACCEL Project Manager for Rolls-Royce, said in a statement.
Related video: Siemens’ World Record Electric Plane Makes First Flight