Rolls-Royce might seem like it’s all about luxury vehicles for people who have too much money to bother thinking about driving themselves around, but what the company has historically been all about is engines. Loads and loads of really amazing engines.
So when the company, which is best known for making the kind of motors that forged aluminium silicon alloys want to be when they grow up, starts mucking around with electric motors, you know that something great is on the way.
Truly, the Rolls-Royce of electric aircraft
And, for the moment, that greatness takes the form of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’, an all-electric aircraft being tested by the iconic manufacturer. The company has completed a fifteen-minute test-flight of its single-seater all-electric aircraft, which has “…the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft” on top of its 400kW engine.
The Project ACCEL engine driving the aircraft is destined to become a 750kW three-motor powertrain backed by 6,000 on-board power cells. Rolls’ target is a top speed of over 480km/h, with a range of 320km on a charge.
You might ask what the point of all this is. Which is fair. The company’s CEO, Warren East, said that “We are focused on producing the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea, and capture the economic opportunity of the transition to net zero. This is not only about breaking a world record; the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality.”
And since everyone and their cousins are currently looking at the urban air market as the next place we’ll see significant technological innovation (by which we mean, air taxis are coming), Rolls-Royce’s efforts in that line won’t be ignored. Rolls is currently working with Tecnam, a company that builds airframes, and Widerøe, a Scandinavian airline, on a viable air taxi solution that it hopes will go into service by 2026. Based on their current progress, they’re in with a serious shot.