The world’s first electric passenger plane is preparing for a flight. The aerial vehicle called Alice , developed by Eviation, underwent engine testing last week.
According to the company’s CEO, Alice is just weeks away from her maiden flight.
Thanks to battery technology similar to that found in an electric car or a cell phone and a 30-minute charge, the nine-passenger Alice can fly for one hour and about 815 kilometers.
The maximum flight speed of the aircraft is 463 kilometers per hour. While the maximum flight speed of the Boeing 737 is 946 kilometers per hour.
The company, which focuses exclusively on electric air travel, hopes that electric aircraft with a capacity of 20 to 40 passengers will become a reality within seven to 10 years.
The prototype of the aircraft, which debuted in 2019, has been undergoing low-speed tests since December. It is scheduled to undergo high-speed tests in the next few weeks.
In these tests, the aircraft is lowered onto the runway at various speeds to test its strength and allow ground teams to monitor systems such as steering, braking and anti-lock.
Although the company initially intended for Alice to take a flight before 2022, bad weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest at the end of the year hampered the test.
Eviation has developed three versions of the prototype: a passenger version, an executive version, and a cargo version. The passenger version of the test can accommodate nine passengers and two pilots, as well as 385 kilograms of cargo.
The Executive Edition has six passenger seats for a more spacious flight. While the cargo plane has 450 cubic feet of volume.
The electric aviation field is becoming increasingly crowded with both start-ups and established airlines. NASA awarded $253 million in September 2021 to GE Aviation and magniX to bring the technology to US fleets by 2035.
The electric plane may become as familiar as any other means of transportation
Boeing is investing $450 million in Wisk Aero, a company that builds fully electric, self-driving passenger aircraft. While Airbus has been developing it in its own endeavors in the field of electric aviation since 2010.
According to industry experts, the biggest obstacle to electric aviation becoming the norm in passenger aircraft is the battery.
As with electric cars, battery technology is the obstacle, but even more so in aircraft, because the concern for aircraft is weight.
Twelve Alice aircraft are on order by international shipping company DHL, and are expected to be delivered in 2024.
These aircraft, from DHL Express’s global fleet of more than 280 aircraft, will be used as freight carriers for shorter haul flights.
And while we’re getting close to battery-powered air travel for some jobs, ocean flights and electric jets are still years away.
The most pressing concern for electric aviation today is regulation. The FAA has yet to provide any clear guidelines or regulatory framework for electric aircraft, which fall under the advanced air mobility category, although Eviation says it is actively working with the FAA to obtain certification for production by 2024.
Proponents of electric flying expect Alice and electric planes to become as familiar as any other mode of transportation.