While the automotive industry has made great strides in the use of sustainable energy, the aerospace industry has been slow to invest in electrical energy. But now a new aircraft is being designed to harness the power of electricity. Built by Rolls Royce, the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) Project aims to build the fastest electric plane in history.
They’ve teamed up with Formula E to design the battery, which will the most powerful and energy dense battery ever used in a plane. The single seater aircraft should be able to reach speeds of up to 300 miles per hour. The current record is just 210 mph. This speed would be achieved by an all-electric powertrain generating 750 volts with a 90% efficiency rate. Three motors will power the propeller, generating 500 horsepower. These propellers will spin slower than traditional planes, resulting in a quieter flight.
The challenge in creating a faster plane are mostly to do with the battery. It will need to be able to generate enough power to build up a higher level of speed without overheating, while also being light enough to not slow the plane down. The battery has 6,000 cells, but has been designed to be as light as possible, with an advanced cooling system to ensure the battery doesn’t overheat or lose efficiency.
Click here to see the ACCEL Project in more detail.
Like most new projects, ACCEL will be closely monitored, and all the data the plane generates will be recorded and analysed to improve efficiency. 20,000 data points per second will capture and feed immense amounts of data to computers to be analysed. This is similar to how Formula One cars capture data, with sensors capturing data at strategic points along the body of the craft. Everything from durability, fuel efficiency, and how the plane handles under stress will be measured and improved.
Once the technology is made cheaper, more reliable, and easier to implement across the market, we may soon see rapid uptake of electric power in commercial aircraft. The rising cost of fuel is one of the major costs for airlines, and has been attributed to the collapse of several airlines in recent years. Rolls Royce are looking to incorporate electrical energy into their long-term strategy over the coming decades.
They’re not the only manufacturer that is placing more importance and investment into sustainable energy. More and more brands are looking at electric cars, Formula E is only growing in popularity among younger audience members, and diesel sales are falling. All this points to a more electric future, and is something that all industries are looking to be a part of.
Furthermore, with increasing pressure from governments and organisations to lower emissions, airline companies are looking to move away from traditional fuel sources and into the sustainable energy market. The ACCEL project has received funding from the UK government, who are no doubt interested to see whether electric technology could be utilised across the aviation sector.
Read more about how plane design is changing, or learn about whether electrical vehicles are the answer to the transport problem.