Currently, the world speed record for electric aircraft is held by the Extra 330LE whose peak velocity is around 342.9 km/h / 213 mph. But it will soon be challenged by a new purpose-built electric airplane designed and built by Rolls-Royce as part of its ACCEL initiative (that stands for
The current record holder, the Extra 330LE, is just a converted version of the ICE-powered EA-300, an aerobatics plane designed in the late 1980s. The electric version features an SP260D motor by Siemens, whose maximum power output is 260 kW (348 horsepower), while peak torque comes in at 1,000 Nm (737 pound-feet).
Rolls-Royce steps in to challenge the record with a bespoke built plane called the ionBird. It has a 500 horsepower electric motor and a projected maximum speed of around 480 km/h (300 mph).
So far it has not officially been flown, but it did recently successfully complete its ground testing phase. Rolls-Royce has yet to announce the date of ionBird’s maiden flight.
What has been keeping battery-powered planes from taking off hasn’t been their lack of speed, but rather their range. And in this respect, ionBird’s targeted range of around 320 km (199 miles) won’t change that overnight, yet at the same time, it is an impressive number among other current electric planes; the Extra 330LE, for instance, can only stay aloft for 20 minutes at a time, so its range is way smaller.