Rolls-Royce completes first all-electric flight


Rolls-Royce has completed the first flight of its all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft, an important milestone in the Rolls-Royce’s world record attempt to build the fastest all-electric aircraft ever.

Spirit of Innovation is propelled by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain. The aircraft also has the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, according to Rolls-Royce.

Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said: “The first flight of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is a great achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. We are focused on producing the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea, and capture the economic opportunity of the transition to net zero. This is not only about breaking a world record; the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality.”

The aircraft took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, before flying for approximately 15 minutes. The ACCEL programme, short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ includes partners YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight.

Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “This achievement, and the records we hope will follow, shows the UK remains right at the forefront of aerospace innovation. By backing projects like this one, the Government is helping to drive forward the boundary pushing technologies that will leverage investment and unlock the cleaner, greener aircraft required to end our contribution to climate change.”

Rolls-Royce is offering customers a complete electric propulsion system for their platform, whether that is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) or commuter aircraft. It will be using the technology from the ACCEL project and applying it to new products.

Gary Elliott, CEO, Aerospace Technology Institute, said: “The first flight of the Spirit of Innovation demonstrates how innovative technology can provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. The ATI is funding projects like ACCEL to help UK develop new capabilities and secure a lead in the technologies that will decarbonise aviation.”

Spirit of Innovation about to embark on its first flight from Boscombe Down’s runway.


The news of the successful first flight comes in the wake of Rolls-Royce’s announcement in July that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Shell to support the decarbonisation of the aviation industry and progress towards net zero emissions.