Rolls Royce’s All Electric Plane Completes Its First Flight

Rolls-Royce completed the first flight of its all-electric aircraft this week. The United Kingdom-based aerospace powerhouse shared on Thursday that ‘Spirit of Innovation’ hit the air backed by its 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain.

Rolls-Royce Spirit Aircraft
Rolls-Royce has made an important step in its sustainability mission. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Great strides

The UK has been showing its determination to be a leader in electric air transport. Officials have launched numerous sustainability projects in a bid to develop cleaner forms of travel. For instance, it announced a £300 million (~$416 million) investment to develop greener air transport in 2019. It also has supported initiatives such as the ATI Programme, which is linked with promising developments such as Collins Aerospace’s 500-kilowatt electric motor.

Now, Rolls-Royce has been making significant progress in this field. The electric powertrain propelled its build with the most “power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.”

Rolls-Royce Spirit
Rolls-Royce is looking to offer top speeds of over 300 mph (483 km/hr) with the Spirit of Innovation. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Plenty of support

The aircraft departed UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, providing a notable breakthrough for electric aviation. Major players across the wider industry and society have been keeping a close eye on these developments.

“The first flight of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is a great achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. 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,” Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East shared in a statement.

“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.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of the United Kingdom Kwasi Kwarteng added that this first flight symbolizes a massive step in the right direction for cleaner air travel. He concluded that the UK is at the forefront of aerospace innovation and greener forms of transport amid projects such as Rolls-Royce’s.

Rolls-Royce Spirit Plane
With 6,000 battery cells on board, ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) has to be achieved through clever innovation. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Ambitious targets

The aviation industry will undoubtedly look very different by the middle of this century. Several firms have been working intently on electric productions, including startup Faradair and its hybrid-electric plane that will switch from passenger to cargo in 15 minutes, and ZeroAvia with a refined focus looking at larger aircraft.

Overall, with programs such as Spirit of Innovation, Rolls-Royce hopes to reach net-zero operations by 2030 with its new products. Moreover, it wants all of its products to be compatible with net-zero by 2050.

It won’t be too long for the firm to see the fruits of its labor. It is working with the likes of Widerøe, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft ready for revenue flights in 2026.

What are your thoughts about Rolls-Royce’s all-electric aircraft taking to the skies for the very first time? What do you make of the prospects of the project? Let us know what you think of the program and its future in the comment section.