Ian Sheppard AIN
Rolls- Royce Unveils Electric Race Plane
December 20, 2019
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  • Rolls-Royce has revealed the design of its first electric race plane under its ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) program.

    The UK aeroengine manufacturer said, “Work will now begin on integrating the ground-breaking electrical propulsion system to enable the zero-emissions plane to make a run for the record books with a target speed of 300-plus miles per hour in late spring 2020.”

    Partners in ACCEL, which is half-funded by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) with the support of the UK government, include Oxford-based electric motor manufacturer YASA and Gloucester Airport, UK-based Electroflight.

    Also unveiled during an event held at Gloucester Airport on December 19, was the ionBird test airframe, which will be used to test the propulsion system before it is integrated into the aircraft. Tests are planned “over the next couple of months” including running the propulsion system up to full power along with airworthiness checks.

    Rolls-Royce said ACCEL will have the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, enabling it to fly 200 miles (London to Paris) on a single charge of its 6,000 cells.

    The propeller is driven by three electric motors delivering more than 500 hp. Rolls said that “even during the record run, the all-electric powertrain will deliver power with 90 percent energy efficiency and, of course, zero emissions.”

    Rob Watson, director of Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “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. This is not only an important step toward 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.”

    Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute, added: “ACCEL will be a critical step in our understanding of how electric propulsion fits into that broader aspiration for the UK aerospace sector. We are also excited about the way it establishes a new and innovative supply chain, bringing together the best of the UK that includes cross-sector expertise, start-up energy, and critical domain leadership.”

    Rolls-Royce is also partnered with Airbus on the E-Fan X technology demonstrator project and with Norwegian airline Widerøe on a program that could replace its regional fleet of airliners with electric aircraft by 2030.