Weekend Herald

Jaguar, Rolls-Royce and the electric plane

Electric cars are the future. But electric planes are tricky

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While it’s a viable power source for small aircraft, the weight and energy density of batteries (one thirtieth that of jet fuel) means they won’t be powering massive airliners any time soon.

No reason why an e-plane can’t set a record or two, though. The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation team is spearheadi­ng the ACCEL programme (ACCelerati­ng the ELectrific­ation of flight), in partnershi­p with electric motor maker YASA and aviation start-up Electrofli­ght.

The aim is to create the world’s fastest electric plane at 480km/ h-plus (300mph), but also assist in the developmen­t of “a portfolio of electric and hybrid-electric products into the urban air mobility, commuter and more electric aircraft sectors”. Which sounds quite complex but, yeah, small electric planes basically.

The company says the Spirit of Innovation is powered by an electric motor with more than 370kW and the most power-dense battery ever used for a plane.

Jaguar is also in on the act, supplying I-Pace vehicles for the project. No need to worry about carmakers clashing, as Rolls-Royce Holdings — the world’s secondlarg­est manufactur­er of aircraft engines, among other things — is a completely separate entity to automotive company Rolls-Royce Limited.

You can see the fit. Both RollsRoyce Holdings and Jaguar have British heritage and both have a lot riding on electric power. Jaguar, remember, has pledged to be pure-electric by 2025; some ACCEL members have also worked on Jaguar’s Formula E programme.

But wait, there’s more! RollsRoyce claims the Spirit of Innovation can fly from London to Paris on a single charge. The I-Pace’s 90kWh battery and twin electric motors give it a WLTP range of 470km — exactly the distance by road from London to Paris. Cue David Brent-style interlocki­ng of fingers.

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 ??  ?? Jaguar I-Pace and Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation meet on the tarmac.
Jaguar I-Pace and Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation meet on the tarmac.

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