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Rolls-Royce’s electric plane takes to the skies for the first time

·2-min read
The Spirit of Innovation will seek to set a new electric flight speed record later this year
The Spirit of Innovation will seek to set a new electric flight speed record later this year

Rolls-Royce’s first all-electric plane has completed its maiden flight ahead of a world record attempt later this year.

The Spirit of Innovation’s 15-minute flight took place at the Boscombe Down military testing site on Wednesday, powered by the most “power-dense” battery pack assembled for an aircraft, the company said.

Rolls said the 400kW electric powertrain was equivalent to 500 horsepower. It will be used in a bid to set a new world record for an electric flight speed of more than 300 miles an hour with the plane later this year. The current record stands at 210mph.

Warren East, the chief executive, said: “The first flight of the Spirit of Innovation is a great achievement. We are focused on producing the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea, and capture the economic opportunity of the transition to net zero.

“This is not only about breaking a world record; the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the urban air mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality.”

Spirit of Innovation takes to the skies from Rolls-Royce on Vimeo.

The flight was part of Rolls’ Accel programme to accelerate the electrification of the aviation industry.

It will use technology from the Accel project in future commercial products, such as electric propulsion systems that could one day power flying taxis. Air taxis would need batteries capable of powering speeds of more than 300mph, similar to those being developed for the Spirit of Innovation, Rolls said.

The Accel programme is part-funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute, the Department for Business and Innovate UK.

The Spirit of Innovation made its maiden 15-minute flight yesterday - Rolls-Royce
The Spirit of Innovation made its maiden 15-minute flight yesterday - Rolls-Royce

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, said the flight was a big step forward in the transition to cleaner forms of flight.

"This achievement, and the records we hope will follow, shows the UK remains right at the forefront of aerospace innovation," he said.

“By backing projects like this one, the Government is helping to drive forward the boundary pushing technologies that will leverage investment and unlock the cleaner, greener aircraft required to end our contribution to climate change.”

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