Rolls-Royce is aiming to create the fastest electric plane in the world

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Rolls-Royce and its partners are working on a single-seat electric plane. The latter is expected by its designers to beat the speed world record held since 2017 by a device designed by Siemens.

If all goes as advertised, in 2020, an electric plane developed by Rolls-Royce should beat the world speed record for this type of aircraft. Currently, it is held by the Extra 330 LE equipped with a Siemens engine that was gained the record in 2017 with a speed of 210 MPH. At the head of a group of several technical partners, Rolls-Royce is aiming at 300MPH and would eventually want to tackle the record of the Schneider Cup of 1931, when a Supermarine S.6B seaplane, equipped with a Rolls-Royce “R” engine, had reached 343 MPH.

For its single-seat electric propeller plane, the British manufacturer is developing a 750 kW battery with 6,000 cells. The powertrain consists of three electric motors manufactured by YASA that deliver a total of 500 horsepower. One of the main technical challenges that designers must address is the cooling of the battery and motors.

For this, a series of sensors will permanently monitor 20,000 points in the powertrain, including battery voltage, temperature and engine condition. The announced autonomy could allow to make a flight between Paris and London in one go.

Compared to a conventional aircraft, the propeller blades are turning at a much lower speed of 2,400 rpm to provide more stable and much quieter operation.

Note that rolls-Royce is also working on a hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft in partnership with Airbus and Siemens that is supposed to come out in 2020. This cooperation is itself part of a grand plan between Airbus and Siemens to develop by 2020 hybrid and electric engines for aircraft, helicopters or drones.

Carl Frantz

Polyglot, humanitarian, Carl was born in Germany but raised in the USA. He writes mostly on tech, science and culture.