Rolls-Royce says 'Spirit of Innovation' electric plane is world's fastest EV

Aircraft reaches top speed of 555.9kph, eclipsing previous record

Rolls-Royce Holdings on Friday said its Spirit of Innovation electric plane is the world’s fastest electric vehicle after setting what it believes are three world records.

The aerospace manufacturer said it had submitted data to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), which controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records.

The three electric-vehicle speed world records

1. Fastest electric aircraft over three kilometres

At 15:45 (GMT) on November 16, 2021, the Spirit of Innovation reached a top speed of 555.9kph over three kilometres, smashing the existing record by 213.04kph.

2. Fastest electric aircraft over 15 kilometres

In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1kph over 15 kilometres – 292.8kph faster than the previous record.

3. Fastest time to climb to 3000 metres

It also broke the fastest time to climb to 3,000 metres by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds.

Fastest all-electric vehicle yet?

The cherry on the cake came when the aircraft clocked a maximum speed of 623kph, which the company believes makes it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle, although that achievement has not been submitted to the FAI.

Spirit of Innovation - in pictures

Electric aircraft has 'jet zero' in its sights

“Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce," said Rolls-Royce chief Warren East.

"I would like to thank our partners and especially 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. Following the world’s focus on the need for action at Cop26, 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.”

Mr East was joined in his electric evangelism by UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

“Rolls-Royce’s revolutionary Spirit of Innovation aircraft is yet more proof of the UK’s enviable credentials when it comes to innovation," he said.

"This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life."

The technology propelling the Spirit of Innovation

The Spirit of Innovation is part of the "Accelerating the Electrification of Flight" project. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute, in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

The aircraft was propelled on its record-breaking runs by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack yet assembled in aerospace.

It worked in partnership with aviation energy storage specialist Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA, and claims the plane provides a blueprint for mass electric aviation. It said the characteristics that air-taxis require from batteries, for instance, are very similar to what was developed for the Spirit of Innovation, and the consortium has this goal in its sights.

"Our next step is to adapt this pioneering technology so it can be applied across the wider aerospace industry to deliver a more sustainable way to fly," said Stjohn Youngman, managing director, Electroflight.

Career highlight for Spirit pilot

The pilot for the record-breaking flights may no longer be in the cockpit, but he is still flying high.

“Flying the Spirit of Innovation at these incredible speeds and believing we have broken the world record for all-electric flight is a momentous occasion," Phill O’Dell said.

"This is the highlight of my career and is an incredible achievement for the whole team. The opportunity to be at the forefront of another pioneering chapter of Rolls-Royce’s story as we look to deliver the future of aviation is what dreams are made of.”

Updated: November 19th 2021, 3:09 PM
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