British engineering company Rolls-Royce recently showcased a single-engine electric aircraft, in the hopes of it becoming the world’s fastest all-electric plane. The white and blue one-seater, which was unveiled at a hangar in Gloucestershire, West England, will fly later this spring aiming at a record-breaking speed of over 300 miles per hour (the current record stands at 210 miles per hour).
Rolls-Royce built the plane as part of Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCELL), an initiative to make electric aviation a commercial reality.
“This is not only an important step towards the world-record attempt but will also help […] to 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,” said Rob Watson, director of Roll-Royce Electrical.
Growing concerns about climate change plus the recent spread of the “flight-shaming” movement on social media, and a promise by the aviation industry to cut carbon emissions, has made airlines hungry for progress on electric flying technology.
Aviation accounts for over 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions and passenger numbers are growing but zero-carbon, long-distance planes carrying hundreds of people are still decades away, aviation experts say.
Rolls-Royce unveiled the electric plane, which it is building with partners YASA and Electroflight and others and which will target a speed of over 300 miles per hour, at a hangar in Gloucestershire, western England.
Named ACCEL, the 6.5 million pound ($8.5 million) project will have the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, Rolls-Royce said, providing enough fuel to fly 200 miles (320 km), or the distance between London and Paris, on a single charge.
The Rolls-Royce Accel project is working on a zero-emissions plane with a target speed of 300+ miles per hour. https://t.co/Jq8RaMtyZF
— Movin'On Connect (@movinonconnect) December 19, 2019
Over the coming months, engineers will begin to integrate the electrical propulsion system into the airframe before a first flight by an experienced pilot in late Spring 2020 at a location yet to be decided, but possibly in the Welsh countryside.
Earlier this month in Canada, the world’s first fully electric commercial flight took off and flew for 15 minutes, but some attempts have been less successful, and a battery-powered aircraft crash-landed in Norway in August.