Is the future of air travel electric? Rolls-Royce believes so

September 26, 2021

The first all-electric plane built by British aerospace company Rolls-Royce is finally ready for the skies. The Spirit of Innovation completed its maiden flight last week in the UK, flying for 15 minutes, marking the beginning of an extensive testing process that will include an attempt at a new world speed record.

The single-seat plane took off from the UK Ministry of Defense’s Boscombe Down testing facility in Wiltshire, England. During the 15-minute flight, Spirit of Innovation was propelled by a 400-kW powertrain consisting of three motors connected to a 6,000-cell battery pack. Rolls-Royce claims it is the most power-dense battery ever created for a plane.

The electric aircraft was first announced in 2019 and is part of the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) program, an initiative funded, in part, by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and government. Although the Spirit of Innovation is the only zero-emission aircraft the company has shown off so far, the Rolls-Royce hopes to team up with air framer Tecnam and Scandinavian airline Widerøe to produce an all-electric passenger plane by 2026.

Rolls-Royce hasn’t mentioned how fast the Spirit of Innovation traveled during its first flight, but its eventual goal is to hit a top speed 300 mph. That would set a new world record for an electric plane, according to Electrek. The current mark belongs to a Siemens electric plane that reached a top speed of 210 mph in 2017. No timetable for attempting the record has been announced yet.

by Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2020 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2018, CES 2017, 2016 and 2015. Anil is also the Middle East's first Brand Ambassador for Ashdown Engineering. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.