Rolls-Royce has flown its all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft and says it will embark on an intense testing program to validate its engineering projections. The sleek prototype took off from the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s Boscombe Down test facility on Sept. 15. for a 15-minute hop. The flight was uneventful.

The aircraft differs from most other electric prototypes in that it was designed for high performance and looks a lot like the Relentless unlimited Reno Air Races plane. The plane has a 400-kilowatt drive train with what Rolls-Royce says is “the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.” The company hopes to fly it at 300 MPH and it’s been reported the plane may form the basis for a new military basic trainer. Partners in the initiative include electric motor and controller specialist YASA and Electroflight, which built the battery.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Rolls Royce made an excellent choice to work with Jon Sharp of Nemesis Racing installing their electric motor/battery/ESC in an NXT. 300mph will be an easy goal to achieve with their current combo. Once reliability and cooling parameters are met, I would not be surprised to see this airplane at Reno. It could be contender within the sport class and the unlimited. I believe 400+ is well within striking distance for the Spirit of Innovation. This airplane is worth following.

  2. So when is the historic flight across the English Channel scheduled? Do they now have to queue up for the record book flash?

  3. I read on another site that RR is only using the batteries as a study platform for hydrogen fuel cells which makes more sense. Battery powered commercial air travel is not practical until the periodic table of the elements is expanded, and I believe God has finished Creation some time ago.

      • And then there’s the only slightly inconvenient fact that the production of hydrogen consumes more energy than may be recovered from the end product. Countered only by the saving fact that the problem itself is the entirely-fraudulent Fifteen Trillion Dollar product of the fascist-Marxist Mann-made-GW Industrial Complex. And that we have sufficient mineral fuel resources to keep us cracking along for several thousand more years.

  4. Beautiful plane though. Looks like would be a good platform for a race prepped Mercedes Benz AMG twin turbo V-12. Now that would be exciting!

  5. For some reason, several commentators seem to think an experimental NXT powered by a prototype RR electric motor with an equally prototype battery is going to be a military trainer. It’s clear the NXT design could be expanded into a military trainer using piston, turbine, or hybrid motivation. So why all the negativity about a pure racing plane being used as a motor proof of concept aircraft and a racing test bed with a potential for future development into a possible military trainer? The several NXT’s have been flown with various power plants. Why not electric or hybrid? RR nor any military customer is expecting an electric, hot rod, conventional gear trainer to suddenly appear. But there is plenty of room for future military development as technology matures. What’s wrong with that?

      • Cameron,
        The NXT is two place and purposefully designed to replicate the flight characteristics of a modern jet fighter or high performance military turbines many countries including the US that are used as primary and advance trainers. Adding a nose wheel, moving the cockpit, etc to meet military requirements is well within the overall design of the existing racing NXT. So, the NXT’s attributes are very close to the military’s design requirements in many ways.

    • The John Sharp, NXT design was developed in CA. Prototyped in Mojave Airport and tested before moving to the Reno test. John retired the Nemesis to the Smithsonian and has since done the same with his NXT. He needed a production number of sorts I believe it was to be at least 9 aircraft to be considered a manufacturer. He sold them all except for his own. The NXT was a side-by-side two seater (staggered) so to keep the fuselage narrowed as much as possible. I was working for the FAA at the time when John came in for the airworthiness inspection after inspection I issued his Experimental certificates of the years.

    • Most noise is from the prop regardless. In many cases, you would struggle to identify an electric from piston aircraft passing overhead by sound alone, at least until practiced.