Electric aviation just received a big vote of confidence from one of the world’s largest engineering companies.
Israeli startup Eviation Aircraft and Siemens announced yesterday they will jointly develop propulsion systems for the Alice, Eviation’s nine-passenger all-electric regional commuter plane. Siemens will supply low-weight, high-power electric motors for the plane, which will conduct its first test flight later this year at Eviation’s U.S. headquarters in Prescott, Arizona.
Eviation plans to debut the Alice at the Paris Air Show in June of this year.
“By utilizing Siemens’ advanced motor technology, Alice is further established as a front-runner for high-performing zero-emission electric aviation,” Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay said in a statement. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Siemens to develop the first fully operational all-electric regional commuter.”
Eviation says the Alice will be capable of flying nine passengers at a cruising speed of 220 knots (253 miles per hour) up to 650 miles on a single charge. The plane will come equipped with a 900-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
The Alice will use a distributed propulsion system, with three Siemens 260-kilowatt electric motors powering one main pusher propellor at the tail and two pusher propellors at the wingtips.
After conducting test flights in Arizona later this year, Eviation will seek both commuter and on-demand certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2021. Eviation plans to begin preselling the Alice as soon as next year, with commercial deliveries slated for 2022.
Bloomberg reported last November that Eviation needed $200 million to bring the Alice to market.
Eviation wants to disrupt regional aviation
MIT Technology Review’s James Temple recently noted that because much of the fuel used for commercial flights is burned at takeoff, airlines avoid shorter routes. Just 1.6 percent of trips under 500 miles are made by plane.
Eviation aims to upend that paradigm.
“Our vision is to provide commuters and travelers a sustainable, quiet ride at a price point that makes this transportation option accessible to a wide array of people,” an Eviation spokesperson told The Driven earlier this month.
How accessible? Eviation said the lower expected operating costs of flying the Alice “will make an 800-mile trip possible for roughly the price of a bus ride.”
The race to launch commercial electric flights
Eviation faces competition in its endeavor to bring the first “fully operational all-electric regional commuter” plane to market.
Los Angeles-based startup Wright Electric also plans to test a nine-seat all-electric plane this year. Wright Electric is partnering with easyJet to commercialize electric planes. EasyJet’s goal is for all-electric planes to fly routes of 500 kilometers (311 miles) or more within a decade.
In late November 2017, Eviation’s new partner, Siemens, formed a partnership with Airbus and Rolls-Royce to develop hybrid-electric propulsion systems for commercial aircraft. The companies plan to begin testing the E-Fan X hybrid-electric demonstration plane in 2020.
The Bothell, Washington-based startup Zunum Aero, whose backers include Boeing and JetBlue, plans to deliver a “hybrid to electric” 12-passenger regional commuter plane in 2022.
As cleantech investors Andrew Beebe and Joe Blair recently argued, electric flight will become a reality much sooner than most people think.