Advance of All-Electric Aircraft Technology Gathers Momentum as Companies Race to Prepare for Zero-Emission Market

Sept. 25, 2020

Following the announcement that Rolls-Royce has completed ground-testing of technology set to power the world’s fastest all-electric plane, Harry Boneham, aerospace and defense associate analyst at GlobalData, offers his view on the situation:

Rolls-Royce’s announcement follows the unveiling of Airbus’ three zero-emission commercial aircraft models, and is another indication that aerospace companies are increasingly attempting to align their businesses to a future market emphasizing climate consciousness.

As highlighted in GlobalData’s report, "Electric Aircraft in Aerospace and Defense — Thematic Research," one of the primary factors that is likely to influence the commercial aerospace market in the medium and long-term is increasing consumer demand for climate responsibility. While there are a number of avenues for reducing the environmental impact of aviation, including Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and hydrogen propulsion (deployed in Airbus’ ZEROe models), all-electric propulsion also holds great potential. 

Rolls-Royce, through its ACCEL initiative, has now succeeded in running a propeller up to approximately 2,400rpm using the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for aircraft propulsion, potentially propelling an aircraft at more than 300mph. This is a positive step for the company granting it not only a leading position in the development of all-electric propulsion, which may eventually be widely deployed on conventional aircraft. It also yields Rolls-Royce the opportunity to expand its business into emerging segments such as Urban Air Taxis.

This advance has, to a certain extent, been supported by the UK Government, which sees investment in the development of future technologies as an effective means of supporting the UK aerospace industry through the economic turbulence brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rolls-Royce being a recipient of part of a £200m grant for new aerospace research and technology will be a big boost to its UltraFan project, in particular, however, it is clear that investment in all-electric technology not only aligns Rolls-Royce with future markets, it may also prove an instrument of recovery from the current crisis.