Rolls-Royce has been making significant strides in the goal of operating in a more sustainable aviation ecosystem. Along with several breakthroughs in more efficient flight, the British aeronautical powerhouse has revealed ambitious environmental plans. This week, the company shared that its subsidiaries, Rolls-Royce Deutschland and ITP Aero are founding members of the European Union’s Public Private Partnership for climate-neutral air operations, Clean Aviation.
Across the continent
Headquartered in Dahlewitz, Germany, Rolls-Royce Deutschland concentrates on the Rolls-Royce Group’s two-shaft engines. The Tay, Spey, IAE V2500, and the Dart turboprop engine have all been focus projects for the hub. Meanwhile, ITP Aero’s main office is in Zamudio, Spain. The research, development, design, manufacturing, casting, assembly, and testing of engines are conducted by the company. It also offers Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul (MRO) services across the industry.
So, two major branches within Rolls-Royce’s operations and the broader aviation market are part of the EU’s leading research and innovation program for sustainable aviation. Notably, Clean Aviation seeks to help European aviation achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
“The Clean Aviation initiative will pull together the best talent and capability from both the private and public sectors to develop cutting-edge technologies, and make them available for a transformational leap in aircraft performance in the 2030s. The work will focus on novel hybrid electric and all-electric regional aircraft, innovative short and medium-range aircraft architectures with highly integrated, ultra-efficient thermal propulsion systems, and disruptive technologies enabling hydrogen-powered flight.” – Rolls-Royce in a company statement.
€1.7 billion ($1.9 billion) worth of public funding will go into helping the Clean Aviation initiative. Moreover, are than €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) worth of additional work will be provided by private firms.
Rolls-Royce shares that the deployment of planes with new sustainable technologies is expected no later than the middle of the next decade, with the hope of three-quarters of the globe’s fleet to be replaced by 2050.
Rolls-Royce highlights that its UltraFan program, which it promotes will help to transform flight and set new standards in “efficiency, environmental performance, and precision engineering,” is already actively involved in research and development projects supported by Clean Sky. The company hopes to redefine the jet world with the UltraFan. Rolls-Royce started building the prototype this year. The target is to provide the basis for a new family of engines to back both short-haul and long-haul planes.
Advances on the cards with the UltraFan engine include a minimum of 25% fuel burn reduction from engine weight and efficiency improvements. Rolls-Royce also emphasizes an increased pressure ratio of 70:1, which is double what the Trent 700 offers.
The megawatt hybrid-electric PGS1 demonstrator is also a key project of Rolls-Royce as part of the Clean Sky initiative. Ultimately, the company is keen to keep revolutionizing flight into the next generation.
“We are proud to be amongst the founding members of the EU’s Clean Aviation initiative and to collectively drive forward research and development that will make sustainable aviation a reality. We strongly believe technology can be a force for good and that the transition to net zero is both a societal imperative and a great commercial opportunity.” – Grazia Vittadini, designated Chief Technology Officer, Rolls-Royce, and the company’s representative at the Clean Aviation governance board.
Plenty to consider
With net-zero emissions on its mind, Rolls-Royce is covering all angles across its operations. The UltraFan is expected to be the largest engine in aviation history, with hopes of ground testing to begin next year. The first test will use 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a class of fuel that is expected to be used on all demonstrations of current engine models before 2024 arrives.
SAF is quickly becoming a focal point in sustainable air travel. However, many members of the aviation community feel that it is only a temporary solution. The long-term goal is electric and hydrogen-based aircraft.
Thus, Rolls-Royce recognizes this approach and has been making breakthroughs in electric and hydrogen flight. For example, last month, the company’s all-electric plane set three new world records. The most notable of these feats was that the Spirit of Innovation reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 km. This figure beat the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132 mph) to claim the title of being the fastest all-electric aircraft in the world.
The aircraft is supported by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain. The technology involves what Rolls-Royce calls the most power-dense battery pack formed for a plane. The progress in this field is set to help with the introduction of a new eVTOL network that is expected to be introduced across countries in the coming years. Urban air mobility is high on the agenda for governments, manufacturers, and airlines alike. There are significant investments in the sector, which is expected to help societies transition into a more environmentally friendly travel system.
Spirit of Innovation Rolls-Royce
The Spirit of Innovation project will help catalyze the transformation of short-haul operations. Working together
The Spirit of Innovation program is conducted under the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL). Half of ACCEL is funded by ATI (Aerospace Technology Institute), which partners with the United Kingdom Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. So, Rolls-Royce is progressing climate-neutrality targets both on a local and continental scale.
It’s not only Rolls-Royce that has net-zero operations on its mind. Other manufacturers such as Airbus are keen to transform the industry. So, these companies will be determined to keep collaborations and experiments going for the revolutions to continue in the coming years.
In 2017, Rolls-Royce teamed with Airbus and Siemens to launch the E-Fan X hybrid-electric demonstrator. Photo: Airbus
Altogether, Rolls-Royce joined the UN Race to Zero campaign last year. With this approach, the company pledges to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within its own operations by 2030 while making all its new builds compatible with net-zero operations in the same period. Following this, it wants all its products to be compatible with net-zero by the time 2050 arrives.