One thousand kilometres on a single charge. That’s the impressive range Israeli company Eviation Aircraft is claiming for its battery-powered, all-electric prototype the ‘Alice’. The nine-seater presents a compelling case in the commuter market currently served by turboprops with running costs coming in at around $250 per flight hour compared with $1200 for a turboprop. However, cruising speeds of 240 knots are half those of a business jet and the Alice’s range falls slightly short of a Cessna Caravan. Nevertheless, flying shorter distances albeit flying slower might be counterbalanced by the cost savings…once, and if, the ‘Alice’ enters service.
For now, the company is seeking a $250 million investment to bring the electric prototype to market. Eviation Aircraft currently plan to fly the prototype at the Paris Airshow in June next year with an optimistic schedule of first production sometime in 2021.
It’s a market niche that is seeing increased activity and ferocious competition – around 100 separate electric aircraft programmes are currently in worldwide development. Zunum Aero aims to produce a hybrid-electric commuter model by 2022 whilst MagniX’s battery-only aircraft achieved a successful ground test of a 350 HP motor attached to a Cessna nose section as recently as this September. Meanwhile, what formerly appeared as unfeasibly futuristic, the flying taxi, is attracting significant investment from companies such as Uber and Joby Aviation with industry insiders confidently predicting air taxis in service by 2023. The future might be closer than we think.