Rolls-Royce eyes first battery-powered planes from 2025 as it signs private e-jet deal

Rolls-Royce is pushing back on expectations for delivery of the first all-electric planes using its new battery system, with one of the company’s top executives saying planes using its zero-emission P-Volt powertrains could be ready for takeoff as soon as 2025 .

Speaking at an event in Singapore on Monday, Rob Watson, president of the engineering giant’s electrical division, said he expected the first commercial use of its P-Volt batteries in small planes carrying six to eight passengers could well take place within three to five years, according to various media.

Offering around 600 kWh of power, the batteries would provide a range of around 80 nautical miles for small planes, but with continued improvements in technology and efficiency, they could eventually carry these planes up to 250 miles in the 2030s, Watson reportedly said.

“I think that’s where you see urban air mobility and regional air mobility, eight- to 18-seat aircraft, becoming a real possibility in the next three to five years,” Watson said as quoted by Bloomberg.

His comments came amid a flurry of green aviation announcements from Rolls-Royce this week, with the company signing deals covering both the development of electric aircraft and biofuels, otherwise known as jet fuels. sustainable aviation (SAF).

The company revealed on Monday that it was working with Luxaviation Group, a specialist in luxury aircraft and helicopter services, to develop and deploy electric and hybrid aircraft for the private jet market, including take-off and landing aircraft. vertical (eVTOL) as well as fixed-wing transport aircraft.

As part of this strategic partnership, Rolls-Royce will provide electrification solutions, digital expertise and maintenance support services for Luxaviation’s planned network of vertical take-off and landing ports, with a view to deploying the charging and energy infrastructure at the sites.

It is also exploring the potential for using fuel cell generators, hydrogen engines and electrolysers for H2-powered aircraft.

“This strategic partnership also leverages Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and technology as we develop the electrical power and propulsion systems for eVTOL and transport aircraft,” Watson said. “Rolls-Royce is poised to build on our existing network to offer maintenance services for power systems. Additionally, Rolls-Royce Power Systems is able to offer microgrid solutions to support charge the fast charging of electric aircraft and provide reliable, cost-effective and climate-friendly services with soft and sustainable energy at the “vertiports”.

In the near term, the company is focused on electric and hybrid aircraft powertrains and infrastructure, but it is also exploring the potential for using fuel cell generators, hydrogen engines and electrolyzers for fuel-powered aircraft. H2 propulsion, he said.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce was also one of four major players in the aviation industry who yesterday signed the Global SAF Declaration which commits signatories to promoting the development and use of biofuels as a low carbon alternative. carbon to conventional jet fuels.

The declaration – also signed by Airbus, Safran and Singapore Airlines – is open to all airlines, aeronautics and aerospace, and aims to accelerate joint industry work to increase adoption of SAF.

In related industry news, Virgin Group announced this week that it has formed a strategic partnership with chemical conversion technology company Agilyx to develop plants to produce low-carbon fuels from plastic waste, with the aim of reducing both plastic pollution and carbon emissions.

By producing synthetic crude oil from plastic that would otherwise have gone to landfill, the companies said they hoped to “expand the market for low-carbon fuels from the limited range available today”, with Virgin Atlantic “and other Virgin companies” expected to be early adopters.

The first waste-to-fuel facility – which would use a process known as pyrolysis to break down mixed plastic waste – is being considered for the United States, but the company aspires to roll out similar plants in other countries, including the UK, according to Virgin Group.

Josh Bayliss, CEO of Virgin Group, hailed low-carbon fuels as “an important step in the journey to net zero”. “Innovation and entrepreneurship are important tools to tackle the climate crisis,” he said. “We are very pleased to add this project to the range of investments we continue to make to address these issues.”

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