Eviation’s nine-seat aircraft could be flying within weeks – if the prototype is operational, it will not only reduce environmental impact, but also make the aircraft cheaper to operate.
Israel’s Eviation unveiled the prototype of the world’s first electric passenger aircraft, the Alice, at the 53rd Paris Air Show 2019. The Alice will be able to carry nine passengers and two pilots in its basic configuration, and will be powered by three electric motors: one on the tail and one on the wings. The Alice can travel roughly 1,000 km at 3,000 metres on a single charge and travel at a speed of 440 km/h – about half the speed of a Boeing 737 by comparison. Of course, the Alice is important not because of its speed or the number of passengers it can carry, but because it can help to green a particular segment of air travel and transport in the longer term.
Cutting emissions from aviation has been on the agenda for a long time, and there are already a number of ideas to decarbonise the sector – most recently we reported on the H2 Clipper, a hydrogen airship that would make freight transport greener, but the UK government is also looking seriously at the future use of hydrogen jets, and sustainable fuel is being mooted as a way to green the current fleet without major modifications. The legion of ideas is of course joined by several incarnations of electric planes, including the subject of this article, Alice, the first all-electric passenger jet.
As reported by CNN, the Alice has reached a major milestone, as it will soon be able to actually take off from the concrete of the runway – the company’s CEO Omer Bar-Yohay told the paper that following last week’s engine test at Seattle’s Arlington Municipal Airport, the Alice is just weeks away from its first flight. The event was originally scheduled for the end of last year, but unfortunately bad weather in the region intervened.
Eviation has developed three prototypes: a commercial version, a luxury version and a version designed for freight transport. The commercial version will carry up to nine passengers and two pilots, while the “luxury edition” will fly six passengers in more comfortable conditions. For the transport of goods, there is a capacity of around thirteen thousand litres. As mentioned, the aircraft is not only environmentally friendly but also reduces operating costs by up to seventy percent. And Eviation already boasts an impressive list of customers – after Cape Air, a regional airline, DHL has already ordered a dozen Alice aircraft, which are expected to be delivered in 2024 – DHL operates a global fleet of more than 280 aircraft, and the Alice will be used for shorter journeys, which will obviously be shorter, one-hour journeys.
NASA and Boeing have already committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the development of electric aircraft, while Airbus has been developing such aircraft in-house since 2010, so this is something that the major players in the sector are also looking at. However, the big question is whether electric aircraft will actually be the future. According to experts interviewed by CNN, this could be a possibility in the near future for regional flights – thanks to ever-improving batteries, electric planes could become a reality on these routes within two or three years.
On a different note, for longer routes and trans-oceanic flights, the technology is, to put it mildly, not yet at the doorstep, so the replacement of major commercial flights with electric aircraft is still a long way off. Moreover, who knows whether some of the many ideas mentioned earlier will not be implemented by then. Experts even cite the lack of regulation as a bottleneck, but this is probably less of a problem than the capabilities of current batteries, or even those in the pipeline.