By this time next year, Rolls-Royce expects to have conducted the inaugural flight of its 300-mile-per-hour, all-electric, zero-emissions plane. The project, dubbed ACCEL—short for Accelerating the Electrification of Flight—is being touted by the company as a major breakthrough for eco-friendly travel. While the process is still a ways from completion, Rolls-Royce hopes that the ACCEL plane can lay the groundwork for emissions-free aviation in the years to come.
Firmly in ACCEL’s sights is the current speed record for an all-electric plane, set at 210 miles per hour by a Siemens aircraft back in 2017. While far from the 500-600 MPH typical of today’s commercial jets, 300 miles an hour would be a significant improvement in the emissions-free space. “This plane will be powered by a state-of-the-art electrical system and the most powerful battery ever built for flight,” said project head Matheu Parr. Parr emphasized that the team’s work is yielding new insights every day given the relatively unexplored set of challenges that accompany electric flight.
Aviation and the Climate Crisis
Rolls-Royce’s effort comes amid a broader push from the aviation industry to nullify its impact on the environment. Air travel was responsible for the release of 850 million tons of carbon dioxide last year—about 2 percent of the total emissions attributable to humans. To meet this challenge, a diverse set of players has pledged its support toward greener flying initiatives. ACCEL itself is partially funded with public money from the British government, along with various partners from the private sector.
Rolls-Royce hopes to establish itself as both a pioneer and a leader in green aviation with the ACCEL project, but initiatives from other manufacturing and engineering organizations will test that title in the coming years. To cite one particularly ambitious example, easyJet has partnered with Wright Electric with the aim of bringing regular electric aircraft to some of its routes by 2027. As governments and private players alike look to tackle the climate challenge, healthy competition in developing a viable emission-free plane can only be a good thing.