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.