Aircraft

Rolls-Royce unveils electric plane to chase new speed record

Rolls-Royce unveils electric p...
The streamlined silhouette of the ACCEL project plane that has its eyes on a speed record
The streamlined silhouette of the ACCEL project plane that has its eyes on a speed record
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Rolls-Royce electric racer infographic
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Rolls-Royce electric racer infographic
Artist's concept of the Rolls-Royce electric racer
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Artist's concept of the Rolls-Royce electric racer
The electric racer will make its first flight in 2020
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The electric racer will make its first flight in 2020
Front view of the newly unveiled ACCEL project plane
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Front view of the newly unveiled ACCEL project plane
Cockpit cover of the electric racer
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Cockpit cover of the electric racer
The all-electric racer will have a range of 200 miles
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The all-electric racer will have a range of 200 miles
The electric racer produces zero local emissions
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The electric racer produces zero local emissions
The streamlined silhouette of the ACCEL project plane that has its eyes on a speed record
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The streamlined silhouette of the ACCEL project plane that has its eyes on a speed record
The electric racer will generate up to 750 kW (1,005 hp)
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The electric racer will generate up to 750 kW (1,005 hp)
The electric plane is part of Rolls-Royce's ACCEL initiative
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The electric plane is part of Rolls-Royce's ACCEL initiative
The plane's battery has 6,000 cells
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The plane's battery has 6,000 cells
View gallery - 11 images

Roll-Royce has unveiled what it hopes will be the world's fastest all-electric aircraft. At Gloucestershire Airport in England, the company presented the single-passenger, zero-emissions ACCEL project plane that is predicted to reach a top speed of over 300 mph (480 km/h) early next year.

In the world of electric aircraft, development is similar to what we see in electric cars. In both cases, the technology is progressing from two opposite directions. On the one hand, some engineers are starting from low-performance electric airplanes and working their way up but on the other hand, there are those who are going for the high-performance craft that they can scale down into something more practical.

According to Rolls-Royce, the electric racer will use a new electric propulsion system that is being tested on the company's ionBird test airframe before being installed in the final aircraft. The racer's three high-power-density axial 750R e-motors will run on the most power-dense battery pack yet with 6,000 battery cells, generate up to 750 kW (1,005 hp) and provide a range of 200 mi (320 km) on a single charge. There's also a direct cooling system to protect the cells at high speeds.

Artist's concept of the Rolls-Royce electric racer
Artist's concept of the Rolls-Royce electric racer

Not only is the aircraft zero-emissions but it has lower-RPM propeller blades to reduce noise. In addition, the power system has a 90-percent power efficiency as compared to the 50-percent efficiency of a Formula 1 racing car.

The new Rolls-Royce electric racer is being developed as part of the company's ACCelerating the ELectrification of flight (ACCEL) initiative and is being built in partnership with electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA and the aviation start-up Electroflight, with funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI); UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; and Innovate UK.

"Building the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft is nothing less than a revolutionary step change in aviation and we are delighted to unveil the ACCEL project plane," Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical. "This is not only an important step towards the world-record attempt but will also help to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we are at the forefront of developing technology that can play a fundamental role in enabling the transition to a low carbon global economy."

If all runs to plan, the aircraft will be making its 300+ mph record attempt in the late Northern Hemisphere spring of 2020.

Source: Rolls-Royce

View gallery - 11 images
8 comments
Cryptonoetic
Let's see... 200 mi range at 300 mph is 40 minutes total flight time with no reserve. I suppose it's a start.
VincentWolf
Wont be long before pushing 400 mph. No need for Jets then. Not even translantic.
Keith
More than enough to get me to and from work all week without a recharge!
Matty E.
Comparing the "power system" on this plane with an F1 car's efficiency is a false comparison. The F1 car carries all its fuel plus the ICE, etc. required to produce the electricity the car is using in real time. This plane leaves all that equipment behind and just runs on stored battery power. And then it loses an additional 10% from the batteries to the propeller. I'd be very impressed if the iCE generator system that charges the plane's batteries achieves anywhere near the efficiency of the F1 powerplant.
Bruce Baxter
As a speed record aircraft, why would you expect long range and endurance?
Brad
That range would not be at that top speed. It's probably at the most economical speed possible (far lower).
REScott
Unless they are charging from solar cells it is not a zero emission vehicle. It could be called a displaced emission vehicle I suppose, yes?
foxpup
If I burnt kerosene to power a sterling engine that ran a generator to charge this plane up, I could make the most inefficient plane to ever fly or I could charge the unit up from solar panels mounted on the roof of the airplane hangar and make it zero emission and extremely efficient. The other posters talking about the "long tail-pipe" of electrics just don't want to get it. 100% of gas burning aircraft use fossil fuels while as low a percentage as you want are fossil fuel based depending on the source of the electric. Even nuclear is zero emissions and so with electrics, one has a choice. Stupid fossill-fuel-loving anachronisms. Cave-men used to burn things to get things done. We aren't cave-men anymore.