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Rolls-Royce battery-powered plane crowned as world’s fastest electric vehicle

·2-min read
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Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Innovation electric plane has been crowned as the world’s fastest electric vehicle after its speed records were officially accepted.

The battery-powered plane flew at 345 miles an hour (555 kilometres an hour) over a distance of 3km in November, and did 330 miles an hour (532 km/h) over 15km, smashing two previous records, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale confirmed.

The plane reached a top speed of 387 miles an hour (623km/h) in the test flights to claim the title of the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

The team may also have broken the record for quickest all-electric ascent to 3,000 metres, clocking in at 202 seconds and beating the previous record by a minute, although this attempt is still in the verification process.

The pilot of the single-seater monoplane, Phill O’Dell, described the record at the time as “the highlight of my career” and a “momentous occasion”.

Warren East, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, called the world speed record a fantastic achievement.

“The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market,” he added. “This is another milestone that will help make ‘jet zero’ a reality and supports our ambitions to deliver the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea.”

The plane was powered by a 400kw (500 horsepower) motor with a battery pack that Rolls said has the best power density of any used in aviation.

The main obstacle to using batteries in planes is their weight. The power system weighs 700kg, while the airframe is another 300kg. However, every year progress is being made to squeeze in more power per pound.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, said: “This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life.”

The plane was built with a £6m budget, half-funded by the Government. Rolls-Royce worked with Gloucestershire-based Electroflight, which developed the battery system, and YASA, an electric motor company owned by Mercedes-Benz and based in the UK.

The previous record was set by a Siemens eAircraft-powered Extra 330 LE Aerobatic aircraft in 2017.

The records make the Spirit of Aviation faster than any train, although it will have some way to go before breaking the piston engine record, set at 532mph by a modified P-51 Mustang in 2017.

The turboprop record is held by a Piaggio P.180 Avanti at 576mph, set in 2003.

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