Rolls-Royce's all-electric plane completes runway test ahead of maiden flight

Set to be the world’s fastest electric aircraft, its first flight is planned for the spring

Accel, all-electric "Spirit of Innovation" aircraft. Courtesy Rolls-Royce
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UK engineering company Rolls-Royce said its all-electric plane has successfully completed taxiing trials as it prepares for its first test flight in spring.

It was powered along the runway by a 400-kilowatt electric engine and the latest battery technology, Rolls-Royce said yesterday.

The runway tests form “part of an exciting new chapter in aviation”, the UK’s Minister for Business Paul Scully said.

He said the “aircraft highlights the value of close collaboration between industry and government”.

Growing concerns about climate change and the aviation industry's pledge to cut emissions have made airlines eager to adopt sustainable technology.

Aviation accounts for about 2 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“The UK is committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Through government grants for research and development, we are championing innovation in the aerospace sector to meet this target as we build back greener from the pandemic,” said Mr Scully.

The electric plane has a top speed of about 480 kilometres per hour and can cover a distance of up to 515km – about the same distance between London and Paris – on a single charge, according to the Rolls-Royce website.

Rolls-Royce’s “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight” programme includes electric motor and controller manufacturer Yasa and aviation start-up Electroflight.

“Electrification of flight is an important part of our sustainability strategy as we aim for net zero carbon by 2050,” said Rob Watson, director of Rolls-Royce Electrical.

“For the first time, the plane propelled itself forward using the power from an advanced battery-and-propulsion system that is ground-breaking in terms of electrical technology.”

Half of the project’s funding is from the Aerospace Technology Institute, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.