All-electric Spirit of Innovation makes first taxi run

Spirit of Innovation, an all-electric aircraft being developed to set speed records and open-up new concepts in urban air mobility, has successfully completed its first taxi run.

Spirit of Innovation
Spirit of Innovation (Image: Rolls-Royce)

The taxiing of Rolls-Royce’s ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is a critical test of the integration of the aircraft’s propulsion system ahead of flight-testing in the spring.

Rolls-Royce believes that at full power the combination of 500hp [400kw] electrical powertrain and advanced battery system will power the aircraft to over 300mph, setting a new world speed record for electric flight.

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The ACCEL programme (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) includes YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight.

In a statement, Rob Watson, director – Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “Electrification of flight is an important part of our sustainability strategy as we aim for net zero carbon by 2050. Taxiing of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is an incredible milestone for the ACCEL team as we progress to first flight and the world-record attempt later this year.

“For the first time, the plane propelled itself forward using the power from an advanced battery and propulsion system that is ground-breaking in terms of electrical technology. This system and the capabilities being developed will help position Rolls-Royce as a technology leader offering power systems to the Urban Air Mobility market.”

Spirit of Innovation
(Image: Rolls-Royce)

Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said: “The aims of ACCEL align with the long-term objectives of the ATI strategy: to fund exciting and innovative technology development that secures a lead for the UK in next-generation zero-emission propulsion, and to continue to support highly-skilled jobs and generate economic return for the benefit of the UK. Our congratulations to the ACCEL team for reaching this latest milestone against a very challenging backdrop.”

Rolls-Royce said ACCEL is part of its 2050 net zero ambitions and efforts to inspire young people to consider STEM careers. To this end, Rolls-Royce has developed downloadable, curriculum-linked materials aimed at primary school children around the project.