Rolls-Royce successfully tested its all-electric “Spirit of Innovatio” electric powered aircraft, as part of its quest to manufacture products with net zero carbon operations by 2030. The approximately 15-minute flight took to the skies on September 15, propelled by its powerful 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain with a power-dense battery pack.
In June last year, Roll-Royce announced its pathway to net zero carbon emissions and this marks a major step towards aviation’s decarbonisation and the UN Race to Zero campaign.
Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Warren East said the first flight of the “Spirit of Innovation” is a great achievement for the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) team and Rolls-Royce and the company is focused on producing vessels and planes to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea, and capture the economic opportunity of the transition to net zero.
Aviation represents around two to 2.5 per cent of global carbon emissions. The pressure to go away from a fossil fuel source, and towards a sustainable technology, largely electric, is overwhelming.
“This is not only about breaking a world record, the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality,” said Mr East, adding, “We are committed to ensuring our new products are compatible with net zero operation by 2030 and all our products will be compatible with net zero by 2050.”
The aircraft took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, which boasts a long heritage of experimental flights.
UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the first flight of Rolls-Royce’s revolutionary “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft signals a huge step forward in the global transition to cleaner forms of flight. He said the achievement, and the records shows the UK remains right at the forefront of aerospace innovation. “By backing projects like this one, the government is helping to drive forward the boundary pushing technologies that will leverage investment and unlock the cleaner, greener aircraft required to end our contribution to climate change,” said Mr Kwarteng.
Rolls-Royce and airframer Tecnam are currently working with Widerøe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, which is planned to be ready for revenue service in 2026.