Work on electric planes is gaining momentum and we’re hearing more and more about more manufacturers betting on these more environmentally friendly solutions, and one of them is Rolls-Royce.
Because although the concern is mostly associated by most of us with luxury cars, the truth is that it is equally famous for its jet engines. However, Rolls-Royce has also been working on electric planes for some time now, and one of them, with the much-talked-about name Spirit of Innovation, has just completed its 15-minute maiden flight, while beginning “an intensive flight test phase during which valuable data will be collected on the performance of the electric motors and propulsion system.” As a reminder, this comes almost exactly one year after the craft successfully completed all ground tests.
What is worth mentioning is that it will also be the fastest electric plane in the world, which will eventually reach a speed of 480 km/h. In addition, in its specification we will find a drive based on three 750R engines, which translates into 500 horsepower and a battery pack responsible for providing energy consisting of 6000 individual cells, which is to provide a range of 320 kilometers on a single charge. Until recently, the technology has been tested on a full-scale replica of the aircraft’s core called the ionBird, a ground-based test facility for prototyping and integrating aircraft systems during the development of new designs, but with the maiden flight we are entering the phase of testing during actual flights.
Because while the first flight is obviously a huge success, there are still a lot of challenges ahead, and one of the biggest is reducing the weight of the aircraft. Vehicles with electric motors are simply heavier, which is perfectly illustrated by the example of cars – the electric Ford Lightning is approx. 815 kg heavier than a classically powered variant, offering at the same time literally half the range. And in the case of airplanes this is a much more serious problem than in the case of cars – in the case of the former it is easy to exceed the limit of payload (and even before adding passengers), after which the plane simply will not get into the air.
However, both Rolls-Royce and the UK Government, which is funding the project, see it as a great success and an essential step on the road to a zero carbon future: – ‘The first flight of the Spirit of Innovation shows how innovative technology can provide solutions to many of the world’s biggest challenges today,’ concludes Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute, adding: – ‘ATI is helping to fund projects like ACCEL to help the UK develop new capabilities and secure the lead in technologies that will decarbonise avionics. We congratulate everyone who worked on the ACCEL project and made this flight a reality, and we look forward to the world speed record attempt, which will capture the public imagination and will take place at a time when the UK is hosting COP26 (the UN climate change conference to be held in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November, chaired by the UK – ed.).