Aviation contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, commercial flights produce about 805 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is about 2% of all US emissions and 3.5% of global aviation emissions. The environmental fallout of air travel is a pressing issue because there are few technology-based solutions for emissions from aircraft engines, and the demand for flying is only increasing.
Electric aircraft face a different issue than ground EVs do — their size. Heavier and larger electric motors mean that they can’t just be swapped out for fossil fuel models, as weight and speed are crucial components of aviation efficiency. Additionally, there’s the practicality to consider- you certainly can’t have a battery powered plane without also leaving space for people or cargo.
Though it may seem like an unattainable dream, there are actually companies striving to bring electric aircraft into the market. And not only that, but they want to make them viable for everyday use! One such company is Eviation, and we’ve been covering its progress since 2017. The company recently proved that its design can fly and survive in the real world — not just on paper or as a simulation. If you’re interested in learning more about this incredible development, I recommend reading my colleague Tina’s article.
In a recent press release, Eviation had exciting news about yet another sale of its electric Alice aircraft, but first, let’s take a look at the long road the company came down to get here.
Getting From There To Here
In our 2018 coverage, the company revealed key details of its strategy and technology.
According to the company’s CEO, the average cost per hour to fly a business jet is $3,000, but an electric airplane can reduce that by 90%. Furthermore, since an electric aircraft is 92-95% more efficient than any kerosene counterpart and required to follow the same weight restrictions during landing. Even though this might sound complex, all modern airliners are designed so they can take off and land with exactly the same weight in case of emergency. So then “losing weight” during a flight wouldn’t present much of challenge for designers.
The company stated that it would be possible to have a flight with a 400Wh/kg battery. They also said that the batteries which are made today have enough energy density to work perfectly. For Alice, the 900kWh battery pack makes up 65% of the aircraft’s weight. The electric motors produce 3 x 260kW of power total. This allows for Alice to have 30,000ft (9144m) as its service ceiling and an approach landing speed of 100 knots.
In June 2019, Eviation revealed its electric airplane in Paris and reportedly secured Cape Air as its first buyer. By 2021, the company had completed the design process and was preparing for takeoff; however, unplanned delayed pushed back the original launch date of 2021.
Eviation landed DHL as a customer last year, and together they plan to create the world’s first electric air freight network. 12 Alice planes will be used in DHL’s United States operations, with more expected to join the fleet in 2024. These zero emissions cargo aircraft are part of DHL Express’ commitment to sustainability.
But these first customers came before the plane had taken a test flight. That happened at the end of last month, with a flight up to 3,500 feet. You can learn more about that flight and get links to all of the above information at my last article on Eviation’s Alice here.
A New Buyer
A few days ago, the company announced that Germany-based EVIA AERO has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) for 25 all-electric commuter Alice aircraft. The airline intends to use Alice as its primary aircraft for point-to-point, sustainable regional travel within Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, and the Netherlands.
“As an early adopter of all-electric air travel and sustainable technologies, EVIA AERO shares Eviation’s dedication to social responsibility,” said Loic Questiaux, Sales Director, EMEA at Eviation. “Eviation’s Alice promises to transform commuting by air, across Europe. Not only green and clean, but elegantly designed, and providing a smoother, quieter in-flight experience, the Alice will offer EVIA AERO passengers a new way to fly.”
EVIA AERO is a new market entrant focused on developing the electric aviation ecosystem. This includes electricity generation to support flight operations via regional photovoltaic power plants that connect to an energy framework intended for widespread deployment of electric aircraft. The goal is make air travel more scalable, sustainable and economically viable with less infrastructure damage and impactful carbon footprint in order to support re-energizing less frequented routes.
“Together with Eviation, a pioneer of electric flight, we will introduce a fleet of zero-emission aircraft that will transform the way we experience regional travel in Europe,” said Florian Kruse, Founder and CEO of EVIA AERO. ”We are deeply committed to holistically transforming the aviation industry by implementing a complete cycle of local energy generation, storage, and flight operations.”
This Approach Could Transform The Industry
I’ve written about this in a past article, but I think it’s worth mentioning again because that last quote by the EVIA AERO executive proves something I’ve been saying. Alice provides a key change for air travel by allowing the cost per passenger to be lower than that of buying multiple tickets on a large airliner. This opens opportunities for people to choose smaller planes instead of having to share a plane with people who might not be headed to the same ultimate destination.
The first and most advantageous perk of flying with one’s family on a private plane for the price of a commercial flight is that it would be much more convenient and less intrusive. Instead of being charged to be treated like livestock or terrorist bait, you might instead receive similar treatment to that of a limousine passenger. Or, at the absolutely very least it’d feel something closer to an Uber ride when boarding.
Use of these planes would not only make small-town and rural flights more common, but also better for the environment. With fewer air miles being used to get people where they need or want to go, this would start seeing flights utilizing routes that the big airlines don’t even serve. That’s exactly what EVIA plans to do, so I must’ve been right about that point.
There are a number of other advantages, including the environmental, but when the greener choice is the more pleasant choice for travelers, it’ll eventually become a no-brainer. Hopefully the big airlines figure this out instead of going to Washington and other governments once again for a bailout.
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