Mention Rolls-Royce and images of ultra-luxury cars flash to mind, however a Rolls-Royce branch that has been operating since 1971, its aircraft business, is involved in ground breaking- or sound barrier breaking work to be more appropriate! The company plans to go electric in tackling the world speed record for electric airplanes.
In 2020 Rolls-Royce will make history when its first fully electric aircraft takes to the skies over Wales. Funded by the UK Government the ‘accelerating the electrification of flight project” (ACCEL) is an effort to build test and commercialize specially designed aircraft powered entirely by megawatts. Rolls-Royce and its partner’s electric light and YASA intend the single passenger aircraft to break a series of speed performance and development records.
Rolls Royce set up a 343mph speed record back in the 1930’s with the Supermarine S6.B, which was powered by a Rolls Royce R racing engine. That particular record is one that the company is motivated to beat. The Supermarine S6.b was flown by member of RAF High Speed Flight and won the Schneider Trophy for Britain. But it was Flt Lt. George Stainforth who broke the world air speed record and attained a peak speed of 407.5 mph (655.67kmh).
Currently, the electric plane speed record stands at 210 mph and it was set in 2017 by Siemens and Rolls Royce, in addition to breaking its own 1930’s record, hopes to surpass Siemens’ as well.
ACCEL’s overreaching mission is to develop the requisite technology and supply chain knowledge to speed the development of future aircraft concepts and establish the UK as a global leader in all electric aviation.
ACCEL is reminiscent of the 1930’s monoplane design, with a sleek figure similar to the aircraft the Allies used during World War II. But design is where the resemblances end because under the hood, everything has changed. Here’s a look at ACCEL’s key features:
- Looking like a contender in the Reno air races, the ACCEL will use three electric motors that produce a combined 500 horsepower.
- They drive a low-rpm propeller designed to reduce noise and vibration. Rolls-Royce says the powertrain is 90 percent efficient. The motors and controller are made by YASA and Rolls is working with a startup electric aircraft maker Electroflight for the record attempt.
- Powering the motor is a 750-volt battery pack with 6,000 cells and liquid cooling designed to withstand constant maximum loads during the record attempt. Rolls-Royce did not cite its kilowatt-hour capacity.
Rolls-Royce doesn’t just want to beat the speed record for electric flight of 210 mph, set by Siemens in 2017, it aims to shatter it. The company hopes the ACCEL will top 300 mph after it takes off on its record attempt at Gloucestershire airport outside of Cheltenham, England next year.
In the meantime, the company will conduct flight trials throughout this year working up to the speed record. And it might just end up breaking another record of its own—the 1931 Schneider Trophy, set by a Supermarine S.6B that used a Rolls-Royce “R” engine to go 343 mph.
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