Rolls-Royce has completed testing of the ground-breaking technology that will power the world’s fastest all-electric plane. All the technology has been tested on a full-scale replica of the plane’s core, called an ‘ionBird’, including a 500hp electric powertrain powerful enough to set world speed records and a battery with enough energy to supply 250 homes.
The plane is part of a Rolls-Royce initiative called ACCEL, short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’. Our ACCEL project team includes key partners YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight. The team has been developing the technology while adhering to the UK Government’s social distancing and other health guidelines and the systems will soon be integrated into our ‘Spirit of Innovation’ plane. There is a long history of iron-birds in aviation for testing propulsion systems ahead of flight, but in this case we have named the test airframe ‘ionBird’, after the zero-emission energy source propelling the aircraft.
UK Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “From trains to planes, our transport of the future will be powered by clean, electric sources – with companies like Rolls-Royce developing the tech to help meet our net zero ambitions. The completion of ground-testing for the government-backed ACCEL project is not only a step towards an exciting world record attempt, but a leap towards developing all-electric and hybrid-electric planes that one day could ferry large numbers of passengers around the world.”
The dedicated team have tested each and every component of the system including:
Running the propeller up to full speed (approximately 2,400 rpm) using the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for aircraft propulsion. When at full power during the flight-testing phase, it will propel the aircraft to more than 300mph setting a new world speed record for electric flight. Over 6,000 cells are packaged in the battery for maximum safety, minimum weight and full thermal protection. Since January, our engineering and test pilots have spent many hours optimising the system and developing operating procedures for electric flight. Generating GBs of data every hour of operation which the team have analysed to improve performance wherever possible.
Rob Watson, Director – Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “Rolls-Royce is committed to playing a leading role in reaching net zero carbon by 2050. The completion of ground-testing for the ACCEL project is a great achievement for the team and is another important
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