Aero-engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce has announced development of what it claims will be the world’s fastest electric aircraft with flight testing to begin in 2020. The demonstrator aircraft will be able to fly at speeds of over 260kt (480km/h+) and have a range of over 175nm (320km), thanks to what Rolls-Royce says will be the “most powerful battery” ever built to power an aircraft.
Rolls-Royce is leading development of the aircraft under the UK government-funded ACCEL “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight” program, along with partners electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA and aviation start-up Electroflight
“This plane will be powered by a state-of-the-art electrical system and the most powerful battery ever built for flight,” Matheu Parr, Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL project manager, said on the company’s website on January 2.
The aim, Rolls-Royce said, is to better the current 182kt (337km/h) electric aircraft speed record set by Siemens in 2017.
“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.”
That “most powerful battery ever built” will feature 6,000 cells which Rolls-Royce says will be “packaged for maximum lightness and thermal protection” and feature “an advanced cooling system [to] withstand the extreme temperatures and high-current demands during flight”.
That battery will power “three high power density electric motors designed and manufactured by YASA”. They will generate a combined power of over 400kW (500hp), while the prop will “spin at a far lower RPM [than conventional prop-driven aircraft] to deliver a much more stable and far quieter ride”.
The all-electric powertrain will run at 750 volts and Rolls-Royce says the electric powertrain and deliver “90 per cent energy efficiency with zero emissions”.
“We’re excited to be working with Rolls-Royce on integrating our high-power, lightweight electric motors into a pure electric demonstrator aircraft,” YASA CEO Chris Harris said last July when the ACCEL program was first announced.
“Thanks to our innovative axial-flux design, YASA can deliver the smallest, lightest electric motors for a given power and torque – opening up new and exciting opportunities for electrification in aerospace.”