Rolls Royce is building the world’s fastest electric plane

Keiligh Baker's picture
by Keiligh Baker

Rolls-Royce is developing an electric aircraft which they hope will reach record speeds of 300 mph (480 kmh) when it launches in 2020.

Short for “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight”, ACCEL is seeking to become the fastest electric aircraft in history and is harnessing expertise from the world of Formula E to achieve this.

The ACCEL initiative will use funding from the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and includes a host of partners including electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA. The project will tap Rolls-Royce’s aerospace and electrical engineering expertise to clear myriad technical hurdles.

The Rolls-Royce digital team will be in the cockpit with them, running the data analytics and performance modelling. “It’s truly a global project, integrated across regions and skillsets,” says Matheu Parr, manager of the ACCEL project for Rolls-Royce.

The project, which also includes aviation start-up Electroflight, will be based out of a hangar at a Gloucestershire airport. According to Rolls, the single-seater propeller aircraft will carry the most powerful battery ever flown and will have a range of 200 miles.

An all-electric powertrain will deliver a maximum output of 750 volts with over 90 per cent efficiency. The propeller will be driven by three high power density 750R electric motors designed and manufactured by YASA in the UK. Together they will provide more than 500 horsepower when ACCEL takes on the record run next year. Big data will also play a key role in safety and performance optimisation, with thousands of data points across the powertrain monitored in real time.

“We’re monitoring more than 20,000 data points per second, measuring battery voltage, temperature, and overall health of the powertrain, which is responsible for powering the propellers and generating thrust,” said Parr.

The current record for an all-electric plane stands at 210 mph, set by Siemens in 2017. As well as eclipsing this, the ACCEL team also has designs on the 343 mph reached by the Rolls-powered Supermarine S.6B in 1931, a performance that saw Britain win the prestigious Schneider Trophy that year. The S.6B seaplane would go on to inform the design for Supermarine’s Spitfire, one of the most iconic fighter aircraft of WWII.

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