Science Museum gets unique Spirit of Innovation
On National Engineering Day, 1 November, the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, Spirit of Innovation, went on display at the Science Museum in London, suspended from the ceiling in the Making the Modern World exhibition hall.
Heavily modified from a Nemesis NXT air racing kit-plane — designed by Nemesis Air Racing in Tucson, Arizona — and powered by a lightweight and energy-efficient 400kW electric powertrain, G-NXTE broke the world speed record for electric aeroplanes on a three-mile course over Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, on 16 November 2021, reaching a top speed of 345.4mph (555.9km/h). This obliterated the previous record of 132mph (213.04km/h), set by the Siemens eAircraft-powered Extra 330LE aerobatic aircraft in 2017. Rolls-Royce test pilot Phill O’Dell was at the controls of Spirit of Innovation. Never in the history of Fédération Aéronautique Internationale-sanctioned record attempts has there been such a significant increase in speed over such a short time period, highlighting the rapid advances in aerospace electrification.
Developed jointly under the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) programme by Rolls-Royce, Oxford-based YASA Motors, Electroflight and the Aerospace Technology Institute, during further runs over Boscombe G-NXTE managed 330mph (532.1km/h) over 15km, 182mph faster than the previous record, and climbed to 9,842ft (3km) in three minutes 22 seconds, beating the previous record by 60 seconds. The highest speed measured during the record-breaking runs was 387.4mph (623km/h), making Spirit of Innovation the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.
Following the record flights, Phill O’Dell — who also used to display the Rolls-Royce Spitfire PRXIX, PS853 — said, “Flying the Spirit of Innovation at these incredible speeds is a momentous occasion. This is the highlight of my career and an incredible achievement for the whole team.”
After the unveiling of G-NXTE at the South Kensington museum, Doug Millard, deputy keeper of technology and engineering at the Science Museum, said, “The graceful form of Spirit of Innovation belies the ingenuity that has gone into its record-breaking design. The Science Museum is delighted to display this aircraft as it both celebrates engineering excellence and illustrates how science and technology can help address climate change.”