An all-electric passenger airplane called Alice completed its test voyage last month, making environmentalists around the world very happy. It was a world first. The Israeli-American venture was founded by 3 Israelis, and the company Eviation is now run out of the United Sates. Its first trip was made at Moses Lake, Washington lifting off September 27 at 7:10 am from Grant County International Airport.
The zero-emission plane flew for 8 minutes at 3500 feet.
Test pilot Steve Crane steered the nine-passenger aircraft, which is powered by two 640-kilowatt electric motors over Eastern Washington’s high desert, a location like the Mojave Desert, often used for testing innovations in aviation.
Its new battery technology aims for regional travel between 150 to 250 miles, or one or two flight hours after a 30 minute charge.
This new generation of all-electric aircraft has the power to transform communities by providing access to airports not currently used by commercial flights due to noise concerns or restricted operating hours.
We’ve seen solar airplanes, the Solar Impulse, on a round the world flight, carrying one passenger. But this latest advance shows that zero emissions and clean energy flights are closer for commuters than ever before. Companies like United Airlines say they will be using solar airplanes by 2030 and Eviation has dozens of orders for its planes in the pipeline.
Crane explained that the short flight was meant as first in a series of “baby steps” for the test program. “Today was just about the initial envelope,” he told reporters. “For future tests, we’ll expand that envelope.”
Why Electric Propulsion is better than Piston Engines in Aircraft
NASA breaks down on their website why electric planes are more economical, reliable and better for the environment than leaded-fuel combustion engines.
- Electric Propulsion Technology costs less per hour
- Electric uses less fuel per hour
- Electric reduces operating costs
- Electric engines don’t emit greenhouse gases
The Arlington, Wash.-based Eviation was founded by three Israeli entrepreneurs in 2015, Omer Bar-Yohay, Omri Regev and Aviv Tzidon, who know that innovating big, physical ideas should be done close to the market and not in the Middle East. Eviation joins companies like Boeing and Airbus hoping to make air travel less expensive by using advances in electric propulsion and battery technology. At least 200 million USD in investment has gone into the company so far.
The Alice aircraft named after Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” will be built for commuter, cargo and executive flights with a load limit of 2,500 to 2,600 pounds and a maximum speed of 260 knots (300 mph).
Alice will be available in three variants including a nine-passenger commuter, an elegant and sophisticated six-passenger executive cabin, and a cargo version. All 3 configurations support two crew members. The executive cabin and cargo variations will be identical to the commuter configuration, except for changes to the interior. (A sustainable upgrade for the Sheikh’s falcons?)
Alice’s first customers
Cape Air and Global Crossing Airlines, both US-based regional airlines, have already placed orders for 75 and 50 Alice aircraft respectively with DHL Express signed on as Eviation’s first cargo customer, with an order of 12 Alice eCargo planes.
DHL aims to establish the first electric express network, leading the way for a new era of zero-emissions air freight.
Germany-based EVIA AERO, which is developing a sustainable regional airline has put in an order for 25 all-electric commuter Alice aircraft. The airline intends to enter into service with Alice as its primary aircraft for point-to-point, sustainable regional travel within Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands.
What makes Alice go?
Excluding Tesla and Apple, Alice is built like the auto industry or cell phone industry: its machines are built and run by a number of individual parts from various manufacturers: two magni650 electric propulsion units from magniX, the only flight-proven electric propulsion systems at this scale. Other key suppliers include AVL (battery support), GKN (wings), Honeywell (advanced fly-by-wire system, flight controls and avionics), Multiplast (fuselage), Parker Aerospace (six technology systems), and Potez (doors).
The company plans on delivering its first aircraft by 2027. It is now working on its first FAA certified aircraft.