Startup Eviation Aircraft has gained two more customers for its pioneering electric commuter aircraft.
Israel-based electric aircraft company Eviation may be “building the future of regional transportation” with the industry’s first all-electric aircraft. The company is based in Israel and stood up their US headquarters in Prescott, AZ during Q3 of 2018. Eviation is currently developing the Alice, an 11-seat electric aircraft with 95% composite material structure. As of June 2019, the aircraft was said to be ready for its first flight some time “in the next few months.” However, Eviation now expects its first flight next year with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certification slipping toward 2022, according to Bar-Yohay, who spoke in Tel Aviv, near where the company is based.
While both buyers of the Alice aircraft are well-recognized in the aviation industry, Eviation’s Chief Executive Officer Omer Bar-Yohay declined to name them. Formal announcements of the two American customers are expected early next year.
The Alice’s cruise speed of 260 knots and range of 650 miles is powered by distributed propulsion – one pusher propellor at the tail, and one on each wingtip of the aircraft for the sake of redundancy and drag reduction. Other articulated design features of Alice are the low operating cost (by avoiding traditional fuel), advanced materials and thermal management, vehicle autonomy, and minimized noise pollution. Eviation expects that the aircraft will be charged by mobile charging stations similar to aviation fuel trucks that are currently used – each hour of flight would necessitate a 30-minute charge.
Meanwhile, work is already taking place on installing charging infrastructure for initial customer Cape Air, a regional airline with operations in New York and New England that announced an order at the Paris Air Show in June, as well as on the U.S. West Coast for one of the new buyers, Bar-Yohay said. Talks are underway with a fourth possible client in Australia, while the CEO has previously said that prospective customers include major U.S. carriers like United Airlines Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., which are interested in planes to feed their hubs.
The U.K. also represents a natural market, given its relatively small size and plethora of regional airports, Bar-Yohay said. The Alice would be well suited to Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s Connect arm (previously called ‘Flybe’) which has an average flight time of 55 minutes.
Why it’s important: Even prior to the first flight of Eviation’s Alice, the company has already secured 150 total orders for its all-electric aircraft. The Alice is strategically sized to fit a specific market in the regional mobility market of aviation, which is thought to be a ‘sweet-spot’ for the implementation of electric propulsion due to power and recharging requirements. The strong initial demand for Eviation’s product will provide a proof-of-concept opportunity with the possibility of eventually scaling its electric propulsion technologies to larger aircraft models, as well as for urban aerial mobility aircraft.
Sources // Bloomberg; Eviation