British engineering company Rolls-Royce gave a first look at a one-seater electric aircraft on Thursday it hopes will fly in late Spring next year and become the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft.
Growing concerns about climate change plus the recent spread of the “flight-shaming” movement on social media, and a promise by the aviation industry to cut carbon emissions, has made airlines hungry for progress on electric flying technology.
Aviation accounts for over 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions and passenger numbers are growing but zero-carbon, long-distance planes carrying hundreds of people are still decades away, aviation experts say.
Rolls-Royce unveiled the electric plane, which it is building with partners YASA and Electroflight and others and which will target speed of over 300 miles per hour, at a hangar in Gloucestershire, western England.
The white plane has a blue trim and a bulging neck where it’s electric motor technology sits behind a propeller on its pointed nose.
Named ACCEL, the 6.5 million pounds ($8.5 million) project will have the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, Rolls-Royce said, providing enough fuel to fly 200 miles (320 km), or the distance between London and Paris, on a single charge.
Over the coming months, engineers will begin to integrate the electrical propulsion system into the airframe before a first flight by an experienced pilot in late Spring 2020 at a location yet to be decided, but possibly in the Welsh countryside.
Earlier this month in Canada, the world’s first fully-electric commercial flight took off and flew for 15 minutes, but some attempts have been less successful and a battery-powered aircraft crash-landed in Norway in August.
Plane-makers Boeing and Airbus are both working on electric planes, say, experts, while Rolls-Royce bought Siemens eAircraft, a developer of electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for planes, in June.