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Breaking News: Rolls-Royce Electric Speed Record-Seeking Plane Flies!

The first flight of the company’s all-electric speedster is a big milestone. Here’s how it went.

Rolls-Royce Accel Project - First Flight - Boscombe Down
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Rolls-Royce has made the first flight of its all-electric Spirt of Innovation experimental plane, with which it intends to establish an all-out speed record for an all-electric piloted aircraft. The program is chock-a-block with acronyms, many of which are about the company’s desire to promote its green initiatives—Rolls-Royce is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of fossil fuel-burning large-jet engines.

Spirit of Innovation took off from Boscombe Down airfield and flew for “approximately 15 minutes,” a length of time that was once common for first flights, though today they tend to be much longer, allowing the test pilots—the pilot of this single-place plane was not named in Rolls-Royce’s release—to complete tasks on the flight test card. In this case, the short first flight, not much more time than to do a couple of laps, oraised eyebrows because when it comes to electric planes, endurance is everything. In fact, the plane is projected to have a 170-nm range, so the short test was likely just that and not indicative of anything more.

Rolls-Royce ACCEL Electric Flight

Rolls-Royce ACCEL Electric Flight
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How fast will it be? Well, Rolls-Royce is looking at breaking the 300-knot barrier, which is more than a third better than the current record, a Siemens-powered Extra 300. The motive force for Spirit is a 500 hp-equivalent electric motor, and if you think the plane looks familiar, it should. It’s derived from Jon Sharp’s beautiful Nemesis XT racer. That plane, powered by a 350-hp gas-piston engine, could do better than 400 knots, so the airframe has proven how fast it can be pushed.

It’s all a part of Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) program, the moniker of which kind of explains itself. That initiative is part of the company’s larger goal of getting to a zero-carbon footprint in 30 years’ time.

Want more information on electric planes? Click here: Electric Creep

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