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Rolls-Royce plans battery push to boost electric planes

·1 min read
Rolls Royce
Rolls Royce

Rolls-Royce will invest £80m in energy storage technology that will boost the range of electric aircraft.

The jet-engine maker said its investment in energy storage systems (ESS) will create 300 jobs by the end of the decade, helping to power both fully electric and hybrid aircraft designs.

The battery pack designs are aimed at vertical takeoff and landing “urban mobility” vehicles, often dubbed "flying taxis", and small fixed-wing aircraft with up to 19 seats for short commuter flights.

Rolls is trying to break the speed record for an electrically powered aircraft, aiming to break the 300mph barrier with its light aircraft Spirit of Innovation. This aircraft uses a battery designed by Rolls with partner Electroflight.

It has also invested in Vertical Aerospace - a flying taxi company that is planning to build 1,000 vertical take off and landing aircraft - though the £2.8bn listing of a "blank cheque" company.

Battery packs for electric aircraft need to be safe and lightweight to be mounted on aircraft. Rolls said by 2035 it plans to integrate 5m battery cells into aircraft.

Rolls is also working with airframer Tecnam and Norwegian regional airline Widerøe to deliver an all-electric passenger plane that will be ready for flights with passengers by 2026.

The FTSE 100 engineer is also working with Reaction Engines on futuristic rocket-like engines that could boost aircraft to speeds of up to 2,500 miles per hour.

Rob Watson of Rolls-Royce said the investment will allow it to be a "one-stop shop" and offer customers electric propulsion systems for all types of aircraft.

Rolls has already designed 10 aircraft battery systems, four of which have completed a total of 250 hours of flying time.