Rolls-Royce is heading up the development of an aircraft that it says will set speed records for electric aircraft and further advance emission-free flight. The “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight” project (ACCEL) is taking shape in southern England and that shape looks a lot like the Nemesis NXT Relentless racing plane. Rolls-Royce is planning to exceed 300 MPH in the sleek low-wing to easily surpass Siemens existing record of 210 MPH. The flight is planned for 2020.
While the record is the nominal goal of the flight, there are some important technology advancements that are taking place in support of the speed project. Rolls-Royce says the aircraft will have the most energy-dense battery pack designed for an aircraft that will give the engine a 1,000 horsepower maximum output and a range of about 200 miles. It’s made up of 6,000 cells. The similarity to Relentless is driven by the same design factors that faced Kevin Eldredge in building a racing plane with a big heavy engine in a lightweight airframe. Although the batteries are as light as possible, they still weigh a lot and the weight and balance considerations dictate the long nose with a cockpit toward the aft. The British government is kicking in funding and U.K. firms YASA and Electroflight are also involved in the project.