Rolls-Royce has announced it is to invest tens of millions of pounds and create hundreds of jobs as it looks to develop energy storage systems for electric aircraft.
The firm, which has its civil aerospace division in Derby, is looking to develop energy storage systems (ESS) that will enable aircraft to undertake zero emissions flights of over 100 miles on a single charge.
In order to deliver this technology, the engineering giant is planning an £80 million investment in ESS over the next decade.
The firm said it will create around 300 jobs by 2030 as it looks to strengthen its position as the leading supplier of all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for aviation.
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.
“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.”
Aerospace-certified ESS solutions from Rolls-Royce will power electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for eVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing) in the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) 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, according to the firm.
Rob said: “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.”
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.
The ACCEL programme is behind the Spirit of Innovation aircraft, which this year will attempt to become 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.
In a statement, Rolls-Royce said: “Battery pack design is a mechanical, thermal and containment design challenge and there has to be a strong focus on safety and low weight.
“These aspects are core to all the products that Rolls-Royce has a long history of producing in aerospace. This makes us ideally placed to deliver such industry-leading solutions.”
Rolls-Royce is currently working with Wideroe – the largest regional airline in Scandinavia – to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, which is planned to be ready for service in 2026.
Rolls-Royce will deliver the entire electrical propulsion system, including an energy storage system for the new P-VOLT aircraft.