Rolls-Royce’s all-electric airplane smashes record with 387.4 MPH top speed

Just two months after its maiden flight, Rolls-Royce’s “Spirit of Innovation” has hit a top speed of 387.4 MPH, tentatively smashing the speed record for electric airplanes, Gizmodo has reported. It also claimed the top speed of 345.4 MPH over a 3 kilometer (1.86 mile) course and lowest time to a 3,000 meter (9,843 feet) altitude (202 seconds). The records have yet to be certified, but if the 345.5 MPH speed stands, it would beat the current record of 213 MPH — held by a Siemens-powered Extra 330LE — by an impressive 132 MPH. 

Rolls-Royce (the aviation, not the car company), conducted the tests on November 16th. To have the records certified, it’s submitting the trials to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the body in charge of world aviation records. If confirmed, the speeds would be pretty impressive considering that the plane only made its maiden flight in September — suggesting that with more time, it could go even faster.

The Spirit of Innovation is an old-school “tail-dragger” airplane (steering at the rear) with the canopy pushed way back, and looks as fast as it goes. It’s powered by a 400 kW (535 HP), 750 volt motor. Rolls-Royce said it uses the “most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace,” with 6,480 cells

As Engadget detailed in an explainer, electric airplanes aren’t practical since current batteries are 50 times less energy dense than jet fuel. However, they do hold some promise for very short trips, like a 30 minute jaunt between Vancouver and Victoria in Canada. And unlike non-turbocharged ICE engines, electric motors retain full power as an airplane climbs, making them ideal for time-to-altitude record attempts — as the Spirit of Innovation has just shown. 

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