Tech

Rolls-Royce is working on the world’s fastest completely electric airplane

300 MPH

The aircraft's top speed

Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce

Luxury car manufacturer Rolls-Royce is making its mark in the aerospace industry. The company announced it’s designing an all-electric airplane in conjunction with YASA, Electroflight, and the British government. YASA manufactures "high-power, lightweight" motors and controllers while Electroflight specializes in custom electric powertrains. The craft is dubbed Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) and is expected to reach 300 mph.

The other space race — While the government and Elon Musk look to outer space for futuristic innovations, the aerospace industry is shaking things up here on Earth. The aviation industry produces about 2 percent of the world’s human-induced carbon emissions, and British officials and companies aren’t the only ones looking to do something about it. NASA is partnering with the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the aerospace and automotive industries for a Grand Challenge. The challenge focuses on innovation for urban air mobility vehicles, especially those with zero or low-emissions.

“We talk about urban air mobility not as a replacement for an airplane, but as a replacement for a car,” Bob Buddecke, VP & Chief Procurement Officer at Honeywell Aerospace, told CNBC. “You have a lot of automotive companies that are very, very interested in participating in the market.”

Toward a cleaner future — ACCEL’s battery houses 6,000 cells and an advanced cooling system. The power-dense battery pack could fuel 250 homes or a London to Paris flight (approximately 200 miles). The electric powertrain controls the propellers and thrust, and the team is “monitoring more than 20,000 data points per second,” according to ACCEL Project Manager Matheu Parr. The propellers are much quieter than traditional aircraft, opening up flight opportunities outside of the hours dictated by local ordinances.

ACCEL’s 200-mile travel ability is impressive but limited. As the industry moves to electric power, smaller, regional planes like this will receive the full electric treatment while massive airbuses will likely be hybridized.

“Every type of transport is going electric [or] has already gone electric and planes are next,” Cory Combs, co-founder and CTO at Ampaire, told CNBC. “It’s not some far-out future; it’s happening right now.”