Rolls-Royce electric plane takes off for the first time

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According to the company, the successful 15-minute flight of the Spirit of Innovation aircraft is an important step towards the creation of environmentally friendly air transport. Rolls-Royce announced in June how it aims to achieve zero emissions, and the Spirit of Innovation is an important step towards achieving this commitment. The company is committed to ensuring that all its new products are zero-emission by 2030.

The Spirit of Innovation, according to the press release, is equipped with a 400 kW (over 500 hp) engine powered by the highest energy density cells ever used in an aircraft. According to Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce, the advanced cell and propulsion technology developed under this programme offers exciting applications for urban aviation, while also enabling a zero-emission aircraft.

The plane took off from the British Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down military aircraft test site and spent about fifteen minutes in the air. Last year, in a partnership between two Seattle-based companies (Magnix and Harbour Air), a converted Cessna Grand Caravan 208, fitted with a 705-horsepower, zero-emission engine, flew for half an hour in Washington.

The Spirit of Innovation’s recent flight is the first step in an intensive testing phase to gather important data on the performance of the plane’s electrical system. The aircraft was developed under the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) programme, which involved Rolls-Royce, YASA, an electric motor company and the aviation start-up Electroflight. Rolls-Royce’s aim is to offer its customers a complete electric propulsion system, be it eVTOL aircraft for air taxi, vertical take-off or even passenger aircraft.

And the technologies developed under the ACCEL programme, which has also received government support, will serve precisely these market needs. For example, the technologies required for air taxis (mainly batteries) are very similar to those being developed for the Spirit of Innovation, which could achieve speeds of up to 480 km/h. Rolls-Royce is targeting the latter for its record attempt.

Rolls-Royce, together with aircraft manufacturer Tecnam, is also developing an all-electric passenger aircraft for Swedish airline Widerøe, which could be in service in the near future, in 2026.

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