WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The airline industry has been grappling with the dual challenge of rising fuel costs and increasing pollution levels for decades, but now executives agree the future is electric.
Twenty years ago if you’d said that the future of cars was electric people would have scoffed in your face, but now, with major advances in battery energy density, polymers and supercapacitors noone’s laughing anymore. Now, as the US gets ready to roll out 250,000 miles of new electric vehicle charging corridors, and Germany bans sales of the combustion engine from 2030, it’s a question of when, not if, electric vehicles become the status quo.
Now Rolls Royce too is looking to an electric future, as its CEO, Warren East, positions the engineering company at the forefront of the next revolution in aviation – electrically powered aircraft.
East, setting out his plans to return the company to profit after one of the most troubled periods in its history, said Rolls Royce needed to be reshaped so that it could help to lead a number of big technological changes, including one of the most ground breaking of all – electrically powered aircraft.
The idea of jet engines one day being replaced by electric propulsion has long been dismissed because of the limited distance that existing designs are able to travel, but now East has signalled that Rolls is taking the concept seriously, and not just for small planes.
“There’s a lot of chatter about hybrid electric flight, not just little aeroplanes but regional aeroplanes. I’m convinced we will see these things happen sooner rather than later,” he said, adding, “there is a race on. We need to be ready by 2020 because people are talking about entry into service by 2030.”