Rolls-Royce the aircraft engine maker, and not the carmaker, wants to build the world’s fastest electric plane. The car company and aircraft engine company were split from one another in 1971, Ever since, Rolls-Royce, the engine company, has made engines for commercial and military planes. It has set a target of building an electric plane which can top the current speed record of 210 mph.
Rolls-Royce gave out the specifications of the electric plane it plans to fly next year. It will be called ACCEL which is short for “accelerating electrification of flight”. To accomplish its goal it needs to build a plane with three electric engines which can put out 500 horsepower. Each will have a 750-volt battery pack with 6,000 cells, and be liquid cooled. It will use a slow turning propeller to keep vibration to a minimum. YASA, which makes electric engines, and a startup called Electroflight will help build the aircraft.
The new project is not simply meant to build the equivalent of a fast-moving toy. Among the EU’s clean energy goals is to cut fossil fuel emissions as close to zero as possible by 2050. This process is already well underway with the advent and commercial production of electric cars. The same process is in its infancy in air travel.
Rolls-Royce means to do more than break the electric aircraft speed record set by Europe conglomerate Siemens in 2017. The company said its new plane will reach a speed of 300 mph. This is still very slow compared to commercial aircraft speed which is routinely above 500 mph.
If Rolls-Royce can reach its goal, it will be another step along the way toward commercial planes with electronic engines. The engines it currently makes for the Airbus A350 put out over 50,000 horsepower each. And, each cost over $35 million.
Rolls-Royce has been in the cleaner aircraft engine business for some time.
However, it remains to be seen if it can actually build electric motors for planes which can be commercially viable, and not just meant to break a novel, but not terribly important, speed record. If it can pull off the goal, it will move beyond simply being a jet engine maker and defense company among those profiting the most from war.