Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Innovation has been confirmed as the official holder of the world record for the fastest all-electric vehicle.
Spirit of Innovation set two new world records which have now been independently confirmed. At 15.45 (GMT) on 16 November 2021, the aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3km, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph).
In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15km – 292.8km/h (182 mph) faster than the previous record. Both records have been officially verified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and the World Air Sports Federation that controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records. During its record-breaking runs, the aircraft, which is part of the UK Government-backed ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) project, also clocked up a maximum top speed of 623km/h (387.4mph), making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.
“Milestone will help make ‘jet zero’ a reality”
Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce, said: “Achieving the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. I would like to thank our partners and especially aviation start-up Electroflight, for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough. The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market. 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.”
Half of the ACCEL project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
Aircraft is “proof” of UK innovation – Kwarteng
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added: “Rolls-Royce’s revolutionary Spirit of Innovation aircraft is yet more proof of the UK’s enviable credentials when it comes to innovation. This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life. The government is proud to back projects like this to leverage the private investment necessary to unlock cleaner, greener aircraft which will allow people to fly as they do now, but in a way that cuts emissions.”
Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), said: “The ACCEL project demonstrates that strategic investment in UK technology and innovation can achieve extraordinary world-beating results, and sets us firmly on the path to decarbonising passenger flight in the future. This achievement of Rolls-Royce, Electroflight and YASA will resonate for many years to come and inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers. They deserve their place in the record books and the ATI is proud to have played our part in that. Congratulations to the whole team.”
The aircraft was propelled on its record breaking runs by 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace. Rolls-Royce worked in partnership with aviation energy storage start-up Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA. The project and world record runs also provided important data for Rolls-Royce’s electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility (UAM) and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. Battery characteristics which are needed to power ‘air-taxis’ would be similar to those developed for Spirit of Innovation.
Spirit of Innovation beat previous record by 132mph
Rolls-Royce’s history of flying speed record attempts and breaking records, dates back to the Schneider Trophies of the early 1930s. The speed achieved by test pilot and Rolls-Royce Director of Flight Operations Phill O’Dell in the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ was more than 213.04 km/h (132 mph) faster than the previous record set by the Siemens eAircraft powered Extra 330 LE Aerobatic aircraft in 2017. Never before in the history of the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) record attempts has there been such a significant increase in speed over such a short timeframe, highlighting the rapid pace at which the electrification of aerospace is advancing.
Spirit of Innovation was flown by Electroflight Pilot Steve Jones for the 15km record run. Phill O’Dell said: “Breaking the world-record for all-electric flight is a momentous occasion. This is the highlight of my career and is an incredible achievement for whole team. The opportunity to be at the forefront of another pioneering chapter of Rolls-Royce’s story, as we look to deliver the future of aviation, is what dreams are made of.”
Stjohn Youngman, Managing Director, Electroflight. “We are delighted to have played an integral role in this landmark project. Its success is a fitting tribute to the dedication and innovation of the Electroflight team and our suppliers. Developing the propulsion and battery system, in collaboration with experienced programme partners, has resulted in a world class engineering capability that will lead the way towards the decarbonisation of air travel. Our next step is to adapt this pioneering technology so it can be applied across the wider aerospace industry to deliver a more sustainable way to fly.”
Electric flight as “transformative for mobility as the jet engine”
Dr Tim Woolmer, YASA’s Chief Technology Officer and Founder added: “Electric flight is set to be as transformative for mobility as the jet engine was 70 years ago. It’s thrilling to see our ultra-high performance, super-low weight electric motors powering the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ to these great speeds, and to know that collaborative projects like ACCEL take us one step closer to emissions-free electric flight becoming a commercial reality for all.”
The ACCEL programme has also been supported by Jaguar Land Rover, who loaned all-electric zero emission Jaguar I-PACE cars as towing and support vehicles; and luxury watchmaker Bremont, official timing partner for the record attempt. The aircraft took off from the MoD’s Boscombe Down site, which is managed by QinetiQ and flew profiles according to the FAI guidelines for record attempts in the Powered Aeroplane C-1C Electric class.