Many are sceptical about whether the batteries are at the right level for success, but Eviation says a test flight could be within days. The first test flight of Eviation’s electronically-powered passenger aircraft could take place soon, the company’s CEO Omer Bar-Yohay told Flying magazine on Monday.
Bar-Yohav did not give a specific date, but said that after only 5-6 ground tests, the first test flight could take place within days.
The first takeoff of the plane, dubbed Alice, has been awaited since its debut in Paris in 2019, and the prototype was recently spotted moving around at Arlington Airport near Seattle.
The aircraft is designed to carry nine passengers in addition to a crew of two, and its high-energy density batteries will power two 640 kW engines. This is expected to give the aircraft a range of 440 kilometres at a cruising speed of 450 kilometres per hour. With a maximum take-off weight of nearly 7,500 kilograms, it will be able to carry a load of more than 1,100 kilograms.
Eviation expects the aircraft to be certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by 2024. Last year, plans were unveiled for a luxury executive version of the aircraft, which would carry only six passengers but would offer more space for areas such as galleys, lavatories and sinks. In addition to these, a cargo version of the Alice is also planned, with a deck space of around 15 metres. DHL Express has also announced an order for 12 units, with delivery in 2024.
But many in the industry are sceptical that progress in battery development is sufficient to power fully electric commuter and local transport aircraft. High energy density could be the key to success.
However, the Alice is not the only all-electric aircraft under development. Sweden’s Heart Aerospace’s ES-19 is designed to carry 19 passengers over a distance of 400 kilometres, and when it enters service in 2026, United Airlines and Mesa Airlines have ordered 200 of the aircraft, with an option for 100 more.