Rolls-Royce supplies electricity. But don’t expect another luxury EV like a Mercedes “super computer” car or a more practical Porsche Taycan. British automakers best known for their retro luxury sedans aren’t interested in competing with the crowded passenger car market. Instead, it competes to create the world’s fastest electric planes where the underlying technology can one day redefine modern mobility.
Earlier this month, Rolls-Royce took a small battery-powered propeller aircraft “Spirit of Innovation” plane from a UK test site to the runway for the first time. The plane moved forward using the power of advanced batteries and propulsion systems.
The taxi is an important test before the actual test flight. Rolls-Royce plans to blow the “spirit of innovation” into the sky for its first flight this spring. Combining the 400kW electric powertrain with the battery system can provide more than 300MPH of power to the aircraft. If successful, Rolls-Royce will set a new world speed record for electric flight. (The current speed record is 210 MPH set by Siemens in 2017.)
No wonder Rolls-Royce shakes things up in the aviation sector. The brand name has become synonymous with luxury sedans, but the company itself actually separated the automotive division 20 years ago. The car has since been built by Volkswagen and now BMW.
Currently in operation, Rolls-Royce is the second largest manufacturer of aircraft engines in the world. Jet engines are used in a variety of aircraft, including the world’s largest airliner Airbus A380 and fighters such as Eurofighter, Typhoon and F-35. In lesser-known business areas, Rolls-Royce also produces reactors for power plants and submarines.
Rolls-Royce presented the concept of electric aircraft in 2019. It goes beyond the direct consumer side of electrification. The company is envisioning a “spirit of innovation” as a technical blueprint for other future forms of transport, including the burgeoning urban air taxi sector.
The UK is committed to a complete elimination of carbon emissions by 2050. Rolls-Royce’s electric aircraft are part of a government-sponsored program called ACCEL, short for “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight”.
In a statement, Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical, said in a statement, “Flight electrification is an important part of our sustainability strategy as we aim for a net zero carbon by 2050. “Choosing the’spirit of innovation’ is a remarkable milestone as the ACCEL team makes their first flight and world record attempts later this year.”