ACCEL is the acronym for Accelerating the Electrification of Flight, a project managed by Rolls Royce. It is part of Rolls Royce’s strategy to champion electrification of aviation. The project is developing a battery powered aircraft which will attempt the world speed record by an electric aircraft in spring of 2020. That’s not too far.
The aircraft aims to achieve a speed of 300+ mph (480+ Km/h). Not a very high speed as even commercial airliners do more than 900 Km/h, but a record for electric propulsion. The aircraft is designed to be powered by a high density battery which is designed to be dense but light with 6,000 cells. This battery is expected to provide enough power to fly the plane from London to Paris, a distance of 200 miles (320 Km) on one charge. An advanced cooling system ensures optimum performance by directly cooling cells during the high-power record runs. The aircraft propeller will be powered by three axial motors which will generate a combined power of 500 HP. The propeller is designed to rotate at a much slower speed to deliver a more stable and far quieter ride.
The electric motors would operate at an efficiency of 90% and zero emission. For the project, Rolls Royce has entered into an agreement with YASA which is manufacturer of electric motors and controllers. Rolls Royce is also collaborating with a startup called Electroflight. The test airframe which will be used for testing before all the systems are integrated into the aircraft is called the ionbird after the electric propulsion system that this bird would be using for flight. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical said: “Building the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft is nothing less than a revolutionary step change in aviation and we are delighted to unveil the ACCEL project plane. This is not only an important step towards the world-record attempt but will also help to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we are at the forefront of developing technology that can play a fundamental role in enabling the transition to a low carbon global economy.”
Chris Harris, CEO, YASA said: “YASA’s electric motor technology is ideal for powering electric flight – the advantages we see on the road are amplified in the air where reducing size and weight for a given power and torque is even more important. We share the same passion for engineering as the team at Rolls-Royce and are delighted to partner with them on ACCEL, a project that’s ushering in a new age of sustainable, electric flight.”
The ACCEL project is just one of the ways in which Rolls-Royce is developing lower carbon power. This includes partnering with Airbus on the E-Fan X technology demonstrator project, which is an important stepping stone towards hybrid electric commercial aircraft at the scale of today’s single aisle family. Rolls Royce is also working with Widerøe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia on a joint research programme on zero-emissions aviation. The programme is part of the airline´s ambition to replace and electrify its regional fleet of 30+ planes by 2030.