A partnership led by Rolls-Royce is building an electric aircraft that it hopes will reach a top speed of over 300 mph and beat the previous speed record of 210 mph set in 2017 by Siemens.
The project is part of a Rolls-Royce initiative called Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL), which is partly funded by the UK government, and also involves corporate partners including electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA and aviation start-up Electroflight.
Working out of Gloucestershire airport in central England, ACCEL is drawing on Formula E expertise in an effort to build an electric aircraft that tops out at over 300 mph to set a new e-plane record, and perhaps someday even exceed the 1931 Schneider Trophy record set by a Supermarine S.6B that used a Rolls-Royce “R” engine to reach 343 mph in 1931.
The Rolls-Royce team is working on a battery pack with 6,000 cells that it claims is the most energy-dense ever to be installed in an aircraft. The powertrain will run at 750 V with a maximum power of 750 kW, and the pack will be cooled by an Active Thermal Management System Cooling radiator. The plane will have enough range to fly from London to Paris nonstop.
Rolls-Royce has released a cool blueprint of the racing plane with a wealth of technical details. The battery pack feeds three 750R lightweight e-motors built by YASA. The three electrically-actuated blades of the single propeller operate at 2,400 rpm with an efficiency of up to 90 percent. Sensors will monitor 20,000 points in the powertrain to provide the engineers with plenty of data on performance.
“This plane will be powered by a state-of-the-art electrical system and the most powerful battery ever built for flight,” says Matheu Parr, ACCEL Project Manager for Rolls-Royce. “In the year ahead, we’re going to demonstrate its abilities in demanding test environments before going for gold in 2020 from a landing strip on the Welsh coastline.”