Rolls-Royce Aims To Build World’s Fastest Electric Aircraft


Rolls-Royce has introduced the plane it hopes will set a new record for the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, announcing plans to try for the top spot in late Spring 2020. According to the company, its target speed for the aircraft is 300 mph (480 kph/260 kts) or greater. The previous record of 210 mph (338 kph/185 kts) was set by Siemens in 2017. The record attempt is part of Rolls-Royce’s “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight” (ACCEL) initiative and is being conducted in partnership with companies including electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA and aviation startup Electroflight. The project is funded in part by the government of the U.K.

“Building the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft is nothing less than a revolutionary step change in aviation and we are delighted to unveil the ACCEL project plane,” said Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical Rob Watson. “This is not only an important step towards the world-record attempt but will also help to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we are at the forefront of developing technology that can play a fundamental role in enabling the transition to a low carbon global economy.”

The ACCEL aircraft’s propeller will be driven by three high-power-density axial electric motors delivering a combined 500-plus horsepower. Its 6,000-cell battery pack, which Rolls-Royce is calling “the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft,” is expected to be capable of taking the aircraft 200 miles on one charge. Rolls-Royce also unveiled its “ionBird” test airframe which will be used to test the propulsion system before it is fully integrated into the aircraft.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Enabling the transition to a low carbon global economy?
    What if I prefer a future economy of mass produced Merlin powered P-51’s that are affordable by people of moderate means? That would be an even more exciting and fun future.

    • ” … enabling the transition to a low carbon global economy.” HUH ??

      All they’re doing is changing the point of energy production. Next thing we know, RR will be claiming electrons grow on trees via photosynthesis. And transmitting electric power from the point of generation to the point of use ain’t free either. What bravo sierra.

  2. Meanwhile, what’s going on with the world’s fastest rubber band powered aircraft?

    If only we could build an aircraft that’s powered by hyperbole…… Or maybe turn to Washington, D.C., for one powered by hot air?

  3. Getting that kind of speed with electric propulsion should not be difficult – no cooling drag, no air intake or exhaust openings. Two hundred mile range sounds impressive until you remember that, at 300 mph, that’s only a 40 minute duration, probably with no reserve. I suspect payload is one 200 pound pilot. But, here’s my question: If Rolls Royce is an engine manufacturer, why do they need another company to supply the motors and control systems? Also, it must be nice that they can con the British Government into funding the project.

    • High-power electric motors and their associated batteries still require cooling, so cooling drag will certainly be non-zero. But should be less than a similar dinop-burner if properly designed, sure.

  4. Engines generally use combustion, motors on the other hand generally use electricity.
    I doubt you have ever heard the phrase “electric engine”. It’s electric MOTORS.
    So RR makes engines,
    YASA makes motors 😉

  5. april t.

    This distinction, that electric motors are not “engines”, is not a real thing.

    “Engine” is a generic term. Websters defines it as “a machine for converting any of various forms of energy into mechanical force and motion” – which clearly covers electric motors. Thus, there is nothing wrong with saying that the airplane’s engine is an electric motor, or that the engine is electric, or that the airplane’s motor is an internal combustion engine, etc., etc.