Rolls-Royce aims “to be the leading supplier of all-electric and hybrid electric propulsion and power systems across multiple aviation markets,” says Rob Watson, Rolls-Royce electric president. “Electrification will help us deliver our ambition to enable the markets in which we operate achieve net zero carbon by 2050.”
Rolls-Royce is collaborating with companies, including Vertical Aerospace, Tecnam, Widerøe and Luxaviation on AAM. Vertical, it says, has already notched AAM aircraft pre-orders from customers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Battery-Powered Sportplane Makes Record-Setting Flights
Rolls-Royce shattered aviation and electric transportation marks with November 2021 flights of the Spirit of Innovation, a modified Sharp Nemesis NXT sportplane with its single prop driven by a 100% battery-electric Rolls-Royce driveline.
The company set both speed and time-to-climb records at Boscombe Down in the UK.
The flights “show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life,” Kwasi Kwarteng, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said in a Rolls-Royce release.
A maximum speed of 387.4 mph made Spirit of Innovation “the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle,” Rolls-Royce said.
Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation Marks Certification
November’s record-setting flights by The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation aircraft were confirmed by Paris-based FAI (the Federation Aeronautique Internationale) in January.
Rolls-Royce chief test pilot Phill O’Dell flew the aircraft at “an impressive” 345 mph over a set course of 1.86 mi, or 3 km, FAI reported, beating the existing record in the C-1c category (take-off weight 1000-1750kg) by 132.38 mph.
Also in November at Boscombe Down, partner Electroflight pilot Steve Jones of Electroflight Rolls-Royce partner Electroflight reached a speed of 330.63 mph over a 9.32 mi. course.
Photos show Rolls-Royce chief test pilot O’Dell at the controls of Spirit of Innovation and Steve Jones of Electroflight with the aircraft.
Rolls-Royce & YASA
As previously reported by Aviation Week & Space Technology, Sprit of Innovation’s lithium ion battery module “runs three YASA-developed galvanically isolated 750-volt 133-kW motors that give the aircraft a power output of 400 kW, the equivalent of nearly 550 hp.”
Rolls-Royce and YASA have been working together on electric flight since 2018.
UK-based YASA was acquired by Mercedes-Benz in 2021.
AAM And Watson To The Executive Level
Rolls-Royce appointed Rob Watson to its executive team as president of its electrical division, effective in January 2022. He has led Rolls-Royce Electrical since October 2017.
Also effective this year, Rolls-Royce is reporting Rolls-Royce Electrical results as a separate line item in its financial statements.
Rolls-Royce AAM With Tecnam and Widerøe
Rolls-Royce has joined forces with Italy-based airframer Tecnam and the Scandinavian regional carrier Widerøe “to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, ready for revenue service in 2026.”
The all-electric “P-Volt” aircraft, based on Tecnam’s 11-seat P2012 Traveller, “is ideal” for short take-off and landing routes, Rolls-Royce says, as well as the many short routes currently served by Widerøe.
“This collaboration strengthens our existing relationships with Tecnam and Widerøe as we look to explore what is needed to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market,” says Rob Watson, Rolls-Royce Electrical chief.
Rolls-Royce AAM Partners With Luxaviation
A $37 Billion APAC Market
Pointing to “the urban geographies of the cities of Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul,” AAM presents a $36.7 billion market opportunity in the 25-country Asia-Pacific region alone, according to Rolls-Royce, citing a study undertaken with the Munich, Germany-based consultancy firm of Roland Berger.
The report examines the benefits of all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger aircraft. That includes city taxi or airport shuttle routes and intercity flights of up to 250 km, Rolls-Royce says.
The study estimates that 16,400 passenger VTOL aircraft could be in operation in Japan, worth around $14.3 billion in service revenue, by 2050, with South Korea offering the commercial potential of $3.8 billion and Singapore $350 million.
“A whole new ecosystem with new business opportunities will emerge as AAM becomes a reality,” said Manfred Hader, senior partner and global head of aerospace and defense at Roland Berger.
An artist’s concept of an AAM aircraft above Tokyo is shown here.
Rolls-Royce, best known for its line of turbine engines, is investing in an AAM future – Advanced Air Mobility. Electric power will help the Rolls-Royce product line be fully carbon neutral by 2050, the company says. Current work ranges from a record-setting all-electric sport aircraft to vertiport support projects with a global aircraft management firm. In addition, Rolls-Royce is working with an airline.