Eviation presented the world’s first all-electric commuter plane at this year’s Paris Air Show. Graced with the name ‘Alice’, this plane may be small, but she’s got some big ideas; to herald in the ‘third age’ of aviation. Let’s take a closer look at Eviation Alice.
While much of aviation’s intellect is focused on bringing hybrid engines to the world, or indeed ripping out seat back screens and removing duty free in order to lower their carbon footprint, one company is looking to take things a step further than that.
Israel-born Eviation want to truly electrify flying, not with retrofits or hybrids, but with the world’s first all-electric aircraft. Their commuter plane, who goes by the alluring name of Alice, is a first in so many ways, pushing boundaries and changing perceptions of aeronautical engineering.
Simple Flying were privileged to make the acquaintance of Alice at this year’s Paris Air Show, where the first complete prototype was on display. Eviation had a box full of tricks prepared for the show too, not only introducing the plane to the world stage for the first time, but also announcing their first customer!
Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO of Eviation, gave a truly electrifying presentation. The collective world media certainly sat up and listened as he explained the idea behind Alice:
“The way we travel regional distances is flawed. It takes too long, it is too dependent on your car, and if you do fly, you’re usually flying too many miles in the wrong direction … We believe the next leap is not standing in line for two hours, taking our shoes off, putting them on again and then hopping on a plane that takes you too far away. We believe the next hop in the democratization of transportation is in the form of electrification.”
You can see a livestream of the presentation by Omer Bar-Yohay at the Paris Air Show below:
Who the heck is Alice?
Alice is the world’s first all-electric commuter plane. She has nine (very spacious) seats inside and requires two crew to operate. She can fly for up to 650 miles at 10,000 feet, at a speed of 260 knots, and she’s the first commuter aircraft to use fly-by-wire controls exclusively.
The three electric motors kick out around 900kW of power, with the massive Li-Ion battery supplying 900 kWh of energy. Refueling is no big deal, as the battery recharges at a ratio of 2:1; that’s two hours flying time for every one it’s on charge.
She was first conceived in Israel, back in 2016. At the time, Bar-Yohay notes that most thought he was ‘delusional’. However, Eviation were determined to change the way people travel and to build a plane that would make it happen. And here she stands today, testament to the hard work and dedication of the Eviation team. As Omer notes in his presentation;
“This is not some future maybe, it’s not waiting for some development in battery technology or in lightweight materials, it’s there… its operational.”
Of course, Eviation couldn’t have achieved this all alone. In fact, they had massive support throughout the aviation industry to bring this aircraft to market. In total, 164 suppliers from 21 different countries have worked on the project, including Siemens, Honeywell, MagniX, Multiplast and Magnaghi Aeronautica, among many others.
Inside the aircraft, the seats are very much premium business products. Super comfy with plenty of legroom, and an interesting function to turn slightly more towards the oversized window to make the most of the view. Eviation say Alice tops its class in space and comfort, with added stability and noise reduction features for a truly elevated flight experience.
Why does she look so strange?
Clearly, Alice is an odd looking bird. We wouldn’t say she’s ugly, but there’s definitely some marmite-like division in the appreciation of her aesthetics. But, it’s the first all-electric aircraft we’ve ever seen, so of course it’s going to look a bit different to the run of the mill jetliner we see today.
Omer put it beautifully in his presentation when he described it:
“This is a truly form follows function situation … it was built from the ground up to be electric … it’s a huge battery with some plane painted on it.”
Eviation have done something marvelous here; by throwing out of the window all preconceived ideas of how an aircraft should look, they’ve built an aircraft that is fit for the future. It’s sleek lines, big V tail and flat tummy present some challenges to the avgeek eyes, but it’s all for a purpose; to make electric aviation work.
Getting into the nitty gritty of the design, the numbers on this plane are really spectacular. The passive lift to drag is an amazing 24, and by putting the wing tip propellers right out on the end, Alice achieves increased lift to drag by a magnitude of around 10%.
The wing tip motors have a self-balancing yaw and counter vortex rotation which reduces induced drag. But they’re just secondary. The main push propulsion comes from the tail motor; it’s so powerful that Alice can fly, land and even take off using just the tail motor, in the event of a wing motor emergency.
Will anyone buy Alice?
Yes, and in fact Eviation have already secured an order for ‘double digits’ of the plane to Massachusetts based Cape Air. That could be 10 Alices or 99 Alices, we don’t know, but it’s a solid start for a revolutionary plane.
As the CEO pointed out in his presentation, there are some 40,000 active airframes of this size all over the world. Within that fleet, the average age is 40 years, making this class of aircraft one of the oldest in the skies.
Alice offers a unique replacement opportunity for these operators, bringing with her a new level of passenger comfort and, more importantly, an operating cost Eviation have pegged at an amazing $200 per hour. With a retail price of $4m, do we think Alice will sell? Heck yes.
When will she fly?
Following the Paris Air Show, Alice is headed off to the US for the next step towards her launch. Omer notes that they’ve had great support from the FAA throughout their development, but of course Alice will be under close scrutiny before certification can be awarded.
He noted that their flight testing will likely take place at Moses Lake in Washington, with support of AeroTEC for the test flights. Once certified, Alice will be manufactured in the US, likely in their current home at Prescott, Arizona.
The company are working towards a launch date of 2021 to 2022, but there’s a great deal of red tape to break through before they get there. Eviation want to herald in a third age of aviation, and we think they can do it. Simple Flying wish them the best of luck with certification and hope we can one day experience Alice for ourselves!