Rolls-Royce is a luxury automaker that’s mainly known for its extravagant cars. However, many people don’t know that you can find Rolls-Royce engines in certain airplanes. These massive engines have been produced for military and civilian jets worldwide, along with helicopters and corporate aircraft in the United States.
Even more impressive, Rolls-Royce has now taken its EV technology to the skies. Simple Flying reports that an electric airplane created by the automaker is now officially the fastest electric vehicle in the world. What is the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation program, and what speed record did its first plane break?
A history of Rolls-Royce and airplanes
Rolls-Royce Holdings is the second-largest airplane engine manufacturer globally, right behind GM. In the 1980s, the company already had 17 engines in use, making it the most popular producer at the time. As the years progressed, Rolls-Royce would eventually fulfill 2,700 more orders for business jets and other wide-bodied airplanes.
Its most popular engines are the Pearl 15 and the Trent XWB. Rolls-Royce has also reportedly commissioned a new aircraft testing site to create even bigger and better engines. However, all of its current engines are powered by jet fuel and can’t surpass the performance of the all-electric Spirit of Innovation.
The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation’s electric airplane makes history
The Spirit of Innovation’s primary mission is to prove that air travel is possible through electric planes. The program is an offshoot of the electric aircraft project Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL). Most of the project’s funding comes from the Aerospace Technology Institute and multiple UK government organizations.
The Spirit of Innovation aircraft, named after the team, started preparing to break world records in Sept. 2021. The Spirit of Innovation is powered by a 400-kWh powertrain, capable of over 500 horsepower, and it only uses a single propeller to fly. When grounded, it reportedly only takes a half-hour to recharge its battery. Range figures haven’t been released, but we know that it has the highest power density level. Rolls-Royce says that this battery has enough energy to charge 7,500 phones.
According to the BBC, the Spirit of Innovation broke multiple world records during its historic test flight. It successfully reached an average speed of 345.4 mph over 3 km. It also hit another high average of 330 mph over 15 km. The BBC also says that the Spirit of Innovation possibly made another huge achievement, though this is unconfirmed. It could potentially have become the fastest airplane to reach 3,000 meters at 202 seconds.
Even with the last record in question, Rolls-Royce officials are reportedly ecstatic about the Spirit of Innovation’s success. They believe that with even more propulsion and electric battery technology advancements, zero-carbon flight could become a reality. Like many other automakers, it wants to make its ongoing product line emissions-free by 2030.
Previous world records for the fastest aircraft
The Spirit of Innovation’s test flights took place in Nov. 2021, but officials have just confirmed them. Previously, the fastest electric plane was 132 mph slower over the 3 km stretch. The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation was also 182 mph faster over the 15 km mark. If the 3,000 meters record was indeed broken, the Spirit of Innovation would have a 60-second advantage.
Of course, there’s no need for passenger planes to run at such speeds, so those would probably be a little slower. However, it proves that EV technology has advanced to an incredible degree. Our future airplanes will not only be fast but safe enough to reach those high speeds with more sustainable power.