The Spirit of Innovation flew at a speed of 623 km/h in a test last week, according to a Rolls-Royce statement. The record achieved at the British Ministry of Defence’s test track in Boscombe is remarkable given that Rolls-Royce Limited (not to be confused with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which is currently owned by BMW) only completed its first test flight of the 400 kW electric motor aircraft, developed under the ACCEL programme, in mid-September.
According to the Wikipedia entry on the subject, the speed record for electric aircraft is currently held by the Rutan Long-EZ, which reached 324 km/h in 2013, while the speed record for pure electric powered vehicles was set by the Venturi VBB-3 Streamliner in 2016, with 550,627 km/h.
The company said in a statement that in addition to the absolute speed record, the aircraft has also managed to break three other records, which they hope will soon be approved by the International Aeronautical Federation:
- highest speed achieved over a three-kilometre distance by an electric vehicle (555.9 km/h)
- the highest average speed achieved by an electric vehicle over a 15-kilometre distance (532.1 km/h)
- fastest ascent to 3,000 metres by electric vehicle (202 seconds)
Announcing the record, the company’s CEO Warren East stressed that such technological advances are an important part of the world’s ability to meet its climate targets, referring to the recent COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. As reported by Gizmodo, an increase in the share of electric propulsion in aviation would indeed be much needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with COP26, for example, being criticised by many for the fact that many world leaders arrived at the event in private jets, ironically contributing significantly to carbon emissions.
Although reports on social media that around 400 private jets had gathered in Glasgow during the conference were false, Forbes reports that around 118 private jets did arrive in Scotland’s largest city, with their owners releasing thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases.