Industrial giants Rolls-Royce is leading a project known as Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL), which aims to explore the use of a high-power electrical system in a demonstrator aircraft. They have partnered with Oxford-based electric motor manufacturer, YASA (UK).

The project will flight test the electric aircraft to understand the feasibility of future electric flight. Gloucestershire-based Electroflight Ltd will provide the powertrain for Rolls-Royce.

Rob Watson, Director of Electrical at Rolls-Royce said: “We are delighted to be leading this research partnership. We are already investigating the potential of hybrid-electric propulsion, building on our existing expertise in applications such as hybrid trains and gas turbine-powered naval vessels, but this funding from the UK Government will enable us to explore the potential of all-electric flight.

“The increased use of electrical systems is an inescapable trend in our markets and championing electrification is a core part of our long-term strategy at Rolls-Royce.”

Chris Harris, CEO of YASA said: “We’re excited to be working with Rolls-Royce on integrating our high-power, light weight electric motors into a pure electric demonstrator aircraft. Thanks to our innovative axial-flux design, YASA can deliver the smallest, lightest electric motors for a given power and torque – opening up new and exciting opportunities for electrification in aerospace.”

Roger Targett, Managing Director of Electroflight said: "We are delighted to be supporting Rolls-Royce with an integrated electric powertrain including an innovative energy storage solution. Our team comprises leading experts in electrification from the motorsport and automotive sector to assist our partners to accelerate the evolution of electric aircraft.”

Rolls-Royce is already exploring hybrid-electric propulsion – using a gas turbine engine as a generator to power an electric fan – for regional commercial aircraft through the E-Fan X demonstrator programme with Airbus and Siemens, announced last year. At the Farnborough International Airshow (16-22 July), Rolls-Royce is also showcasing a hybrid electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) vehicle concept which could be adapted for personal transport, public transport, logistics and even military applications and take to the skies as soon as the early 2020s.