Rolls-Royce’s All Electric Aircraft Claims World Speed Record

Rolls-Royce today shared that its all-electric plane has set three new world records. One of these achievements is that on November 16th, the Spirit of Innovation aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 km, surpassing the current record by 213.04 km/h (132 mph) to affirm itself as the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

Rolls-Royce Spirit Flight
Rolls-Royce continues to make notable strides in electric flight. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Records smashed

Additionally, the aircraft flew 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15 km, which is 92.8km/h (182mph) quicker than the previous record. It also broke the record for the fastest time to climb to 3,000 m by 60 seconds, with a figure of 202 seconds.

All three feats occurred at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down testing site in Wiltshire, United Kingdom. Rolls-Royce has submitted its data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). This is the World Air Sports Federation and has long verified aviation records.

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

Rapid progress

The Spirit of Innovation only took flight for the first time in September. Backed by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain, Rolls-Royce notes that it is supported by the most power-dense battery pack ever put together for a plane.

Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation Plane
A whopping 6,000 battery cells are packaged to power the aircraft. Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

A Siemens’ Extra 330LE broke the electric aircraft speed record in April 2017. Interestingly, Rolls-Rolls bought Siemens’ Electric and Hybrid-Electric aerospace propulsion business two years later. So, Rolls-Royce has now broken a record that it was already affiliated with.

The company is undoubtedly proud of its achievement. Its leadership notes that it demonstrates the potential to be had with electric aviation, especially in the context of sustainability.

“Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. I would like to thank our partners and especially Electroflight for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough,” Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East shared in a company statement.

The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market. Following the world’s focus on the need for action at COP26, this is another milestone that will help make ‘jet zero’ a reality and supports our ambitions to deliver the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea.”

Spirit of Innovation Rolls-Royce
There are plenty of opportunities to be had in the next generation of flight. Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

A valuable solution

With three electric motors providing over 750 hp, the powertrain can offer a 90% energy-efficient flight. The remaining 10% of energy is lost through heat and sound amid the law of conservation of energy. In comparison, Formula 1 cars are only 50% energy efficient. So, Rolls-Royce has covered excellent ground with this program.

Electric aircraft are set to overhaul short-haul travel in the next chapter. We recently reported that eVTOL networks will be become the norm by the time this decade is over. This is one market where Rolls-Royce sees its technology excelling.

All in all, the Spirit of Innovation program is part of the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) project. 50% of the project’s funding is given by ATI (Aerospace Technology Institute), which partners with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. With the government and the aviation industry having net-zero ambitions on their mind. Breakthroughs such as these will go a long way in the decarbonization of aviation.

What are your thoughts about the Spirit of Innovation reportedly breaking the world speed record? What do you make of the prospects to be had with the program? Let us know what you think of the overall project in the comment section.