You may know them for their cars, but Rolls-Royce is currently looking to the sky instead of just the roads. ACCEL – their new electric plane project which stands for “accelerating the electrification of flight” is a single seat, electricity-powered airplane that aims to reach a top speed of 300 mph.
Made in collaboration with a number of partners including aviation company Electroflight and electric motor and motor controller producer YASA Limited, the ACCEL project is given full support by the UK government and is planned to take flight over Great Britain sometime in 2020.
Powering this electric plane is an energy-dense battery pack with 6,000 cells. This provides the ACCEL with enough power to fly at high speeds at a maximum distance of 200 miles without having to recharge. To help lessen the plane’s heat and maximum weight, the batteries are given thermal protection, an advanced cooling system, and were made to be as light as can be.
Having an advanced battery pack would be useless without advanced motors to power, and the ACCEL has three high power motors designed by YASA Limited to move the plane propellers. Combined, the motors grant a total of 500 horsepower to the plane. Even with this extra power, the propeller blades of the ACCEL are made to rotate at a much slower rate than normal airplanes to keep the plane more quiet and stable.
Couple this with an all-electric powertrain, and you have a motor which has 90% energy efficiency with no emissions whatsoever.
To make sure the tech powering the ACCEL is always running smoothly, sensors are installed on the powertrain which collect flight information such as the battery’s temperature, wattage, and other performance metrics.
The ACCEL project is one of the ways Rolls-Royce seeks to lower vehicle carbon emissions as a whole. Why they wish to work on air vehicles instead of their own cars remains a mystery, but they are also working with Norwegian airline Widerøe to help make the airline’s planes emission-free by the year 2030. Should the ACCEL prove successful, we could be on the verge of a more eco-friendly form of air travel.