Rolls-Royce’s ‘Spirit of Innovation’ Aircraft Completes the First Test of the Performance of its Propulsion SystemMarch 20, 2021 by Stephanie Leonida
The RR ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) electric plane is part of a project that is centered on achieving net-zero carbon by 2050
Rolls-Royce (RR) is a British-born multinational company that provides cutting-edge products and services within three main business areas: Civil Aerospace, Power Systems, and Defense. The company is a manufacturer of marine propulsion systems, aircraft engines, and power generation systems. RR is the world’s second-largest aircraft maker, second only to American multinational conglomerate, General Electric. Recently, the company announced the successful completion of the taxiing of its ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft. Not only is this heralded as a new milestone for RR but humanity as well, because this step brings the world closer to what could become its fastest all-electric plane.
The ‘Spirit of Innovation’. Image used courtesy of RR
The ACCEL Project
The RR ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) electric plane is part of a project that is centered on achieving net-zero carbon by 2050. The ACCEL project includes key partners including electric motor and controller manufacturer, YASA, and aviation start-up, Electroflight. Half of the funding for the project is being provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which is working in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and Innovate UK.
In a recent press release, Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute, Gary Elliott, said: “The Aerospace Technology Institute is proud to co-fund the ACCEL project. The aims of ACCEL align with the long-term objectives of the ATI strategy: to fund exciting and innovative technology development that secures a lead for the UK in next-generation zero-emission propulsion and to continue to support highly-skilled jobs and generate economic return for the benefit of the UK. Our congratulations to the ACCEL team for reaching this latest milestone against a very challenging backdrop.”
The Rolls-Royce ACCEL Electric Plane
The battery of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is said to house 6,000 cells, which are packaged in such a way to achieve maximum lightness and thermal protection. The battery provides enough energy to fly 200 miles. The taxiing of the aircraft has been a critical test of the integration of the propulsion system before the first planned flight at full power, to be held later in the year. For the record attempt, ACCEL will use three 750R lightweight e-motors manufactured by YASA. The motors will deliver over 500 horsepower to the propeller at lower revolutions per minute (RPM) than a conventional airplane. This will serve to increase stability and produce less noise.
The ACCEL project will use 750R lightweight e-motors manufactured by YASA. Image used courtesy of RR
It is RR’s ambition to bring the technology generated from the ACCEL project to the general aerospace market, as well as disruptive markets such as urban air mobility and the consumer space.
In the same press release, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical, Rob Watson, said: “Electrification of flight is an important part of our sustainability strategy as we aim for net-zero carbon by 2050. Taxiing of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is an incredible milestone for the ACCEL team as we progress to first flight and the world-record attempt later this year. For the first time, the plane propelled itself forward using the power from an advanced battery and propulsion system that is ground-breaking in terms of electrical technology. This system and the capabilities being developed will help position Rolls-Royce as a technology leader offering power systems to the Urban Air Mobility market.”