Rolls-Royces all-electric aircraft — ‘Spirit of Innovation — will take to the skies for the first time in the coming weeks as it works towards a world-record attempt with a target speed of 300+ MPH (480+ KMPH). The exciting project will be carbon neutral and to support this ground-breaking innovation, Jaguar Land Rover is loaning all-electric zero emission Jaguar I-PACE cars as towing and support vehicles. The aircraft has been created by the ACCEL programme, short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’, which includes key partners YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation startup Electroflight.
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. The ACCEL team has continued to innovate while adhering to the UK Government’s social distancing and other health guidelines.
Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover are UK pioneers who are focused on advancing electrical technology for their respective sectors. We are delighted that Jaguar Land Rover are loaning us I-PACE vehicles as we bid to develop the world’s fastest all-electric plane. It is important to us that the ACCEL programme is carbon neutral and this will be supported by having all-electric cars for ground-support."
The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ features an electric propulsion system delivering 500hp+ with the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft providing enough energy to fuel 250 homes or fly London to Paris on a single charge.
The I-PACE uses two electric motors producing a total of 394hp with power delivered by a state-of-the-art 90kWh Lithium-ion battery featuring 432 pouch cells. Coincidentally, the I-PACE is capable of 292 miles (WLTP) on a single charge – exactly the distance by road from London to Paris.
Rawdon Glover, MD, Jaguar Land Rover UK, said: “The I-PACE is a real pioneer; when it launched in 2018, it was the world’s first premium all-electric SUV, establishing Jaguar as a leader in electrification and setting the brand on a path to become fully electric by 2025. We’re delighted to be supporting another great British pioneer Rolls-Royce and their team as the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft brings electrified aviation into the nation’s psyche with this incredible 300mph record attempt."
The ACCEL project is part of Rolls-Royce’s journey towards enabling the sectors in which it operates reach net zero carbon by 2050. It will be using the technology from the ACCEL project and apply it to products for the market, bringing a portfolio of motors, power electronics and batteries into the general aerospace, urban air mobility and small commuter aircraft sectors.
In a similar vein, the Jaguar Racing Formula E team’s experiences on-track help generate real-world improvements in Jaguar’s roadgoing electric vehicles. Several members of the ACCEL project team have come from Formula E backgrounds.
Both Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover are dedicated to decarbonising their footprints. Rolls-Royce has halved the greenhouse gas emissions associated with operations and facilities since 2014 and it is well on track to meet a 2030 target of net zero emissions from operations.
It is also committed to ensuring that its new products are compatible with net zero operation by 2030, and all products will be compatible with net zero by 2050.
Jaguar Land Rover is aiming to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, products and operations by 2039.
The ACCEL project represents a series of firsts for Rolls-Royce, including being the first Rolls-Royce project to use offsetting to make the whole programme carbon neutral.