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Spirit of Innovation confirmed as world’s fastest all-electric plane with record wins

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The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation electric aircraft hit a top speed of 623km/h (Credit: Rolls-Royce)
The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation electric aircraft hit a top speed of 623km/h (Credit: Rolls-Royce)

The Spirit of Innovation is officially the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, Rolls-Royce confirmed today (20 January) after receiving independent confirmation of two world records.

On 16 November 2021, the aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9km/h (345.4mph) over three kilometres, 213.04 km/h (132mph) faster than the previous record. In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site in Wiltshire, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330mph) over 15 kilometres – 292.8km/h (182mph) over the previous record.

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records, has now officially verified both records.

During the record-breaking runs, the aircraft – part of the government-backed Accel (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) project – also clocked up a maximum top speed of 623km/h (387.4mph), making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said: “Achieving the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the Accel team and Rolls-Royce. I would like to thank our partners and especially aviation start-up Electroflight, for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough. The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the advanced air mobility market.

“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 on its record breaking runs by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace, including 6,480 cells insulated with Portuguese cork.

The project and world record runs provided important data for future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft, Rolls-Royce said. Flying taxis require similar battery characteristics, for example.

Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), said: “The Accel project demonstrates that strategic investment in UK technology and innovation can achieve extraordinary world-beating results, and sets us firmly on the path to decarbonising passenger flight in the future.”

The short timeframe in which the records were broken was particularly significant, a Rolls-Royce announcement said. “Never before in the history of the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) record attempts has there been such a significant increase in speed over such a short timeframe, highlighting the rapid pace at which the electrification of aerospace is advancing,” the firm said.

A third potential record, for the fastest time to climb to 3,000m – a time of 202 seconds, breaking the current record by 60 seconds – is still going through the verification process.


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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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