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Rolls-Royce to invest in aviation energy storage technology
As part of its mission to pioneer sustainable power, Rolls-Royce is set to invest up to £80m into the development of energy storage systems (ESS) that will enable aircraft to undertake zero emissions flights of over 100 miles on a single charge. The planned investment in ESS is expected to take place over the next decade, creating around 300 jobs by 2030 and strengthening its position as a leading supplier of all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for aviation.
Aerospace-certified ESS solutions from Rolls-Royce will power electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing) in the urban air mobility market and fixed-wing aircraft, with up to 19 seats, in the commuter market. By 2035, Rolls-Royce is planning to integrate more than five million battery cells per annum into modular systems. These modules will deliver market-leading energy density levels.
Rob Watson, director of electrical at Rolls-Royce, said: “This multi-million-pound investment by Rolls-Royce over the next decade is another demonstration of our ambitions in electrification. We are developing a portfolio of energy storage solutions to complement our electrical propulsion systems. This will ensure that we can offer our customers a complete electric propulsion system for their platform, whether that is an eVTOL or a commuter aircraft. It will enable us to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for all-electric or hybrid-electric propulsion systems, which is incredibly exciting as these new markets develop and expand.”
Rolls-Royce has been delivering battery solutions for many years and has designed 10 different aerospace battery systems, using state-of-the-art cell technology. Of these batteries, four designs have already flown in three aircraft, accumulating more than 250 hours of flight experience and another two designs will complete their first flight in aircraft in 2021. This includes a battery developed with Electroflight, Rolls Royce’s UK manufacturing partner in the ACCEL programme, in which it has built the Spirit of Innovation aircraft, that is aiming to be the world’s fastest all-electric plane.
Both ACCEL and the initial research and technology Rolls-Royce has undertaken to develop ESS are being supported by the UK government through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). Rolls-Royce is also working closely with WMG, University of Warwick through the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, to develop its energy storage technology.
Rolls-Royce and airframer Tecnam are currently working with Widerøe – the largest regional airline in Scandinavia – to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, which is planned to be ready for revenue service in 2026. Rolls-Royce will deliver the entire electrical propulsion system including an energy storage system for the new P-VOLT aircraft.