All-electric Spirit of Innovation lays claim to world records

Rolls-Royce has submitted data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale to verify claims for three new world records set by the company’s all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft.

On 16 November 2021, Spirit of Innovation is claimed to have reached a top speed of 555.9km/h (345.4mph) over 3km, beating the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph).

Rolls-Royce added that further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site saw the aircraft achieve 532.1km/h (330mph) over 15km – 292.8km/h (182mph) faster than the previous record – and broke the fastest time to climb to 3000m by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds.

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During its runs, Spirit of Innovation achieved a maximum speed of 623km/h (387.4mph) which according to Rolls-Royce makes the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

“Flying the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ at these incredible speeds and believing we have broken the world record for all-electric flight is a momentous occasion,” said Phill O’Dell, former test pilot and Rolls-Royce director of Flight Operations. “This is the highlight of my career and is an incredible achievement for the 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.”

The Spirit of Innovation is part of the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) project. 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.

During its runs, Spirit of Innovation achieved a maximum speed of 623km/h (387.4mph) Image: Rolls-Royce

Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said: “Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market. Following the world’s focus on the need for action at COP26, 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.”

The aircraft was propelled by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and ‘the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace’. The project and world record runs will provide data for future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft.

Partners in the project include aviation energy storage specialist Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.

Stjohn Youngman, managing director, Electroflight said: “Developing the propulsion and battery system, in collaboration with experienced program 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.”