The world’s first all-electric passenger airplane has finally taken flight. The Eviation Aircraft Alice went on its maiden voyage on Tuesday, after a series of setbacks and delays kept putting off the historic flight — officially bringing passenger planes into the EV age.
The inaugural Alice flight was short and sweet, lasting eight minutes in all according to CNN. The EV plane took off early Tuesday morning from Grant County International Airport in Washington state, and reached a maximum altitude of 3,500 feet.
The plane’s max operating speed is 260 knots, just under 300 miles per hour, powered by two 640 kW (858 hp) electric motors, as GeekWire reports, but battery capacity hasn’t been finalized.
Eviation CEO Gregory Davis says the company is targeting a max range between 200 to 300 nautical miles, which would allow the passenger plane to operate flights ranging from 150 to 250 miles. Its maximum load is expected to be up to 2,600 pounds, and the Alice will carry two pilots and up to nine passengers.
Of course, Tuesday’s test flight of the EV passenger plane was without any passengers. This is just the first in a series of baby steps, according to test pilot Steve Crane. But it’s nonetheless a significant step ahead for passenger plane propulsion methods. The company tracked the progression, telling CNN:
This is history [...] We have not seen the propulsion technology change on the aircraft since we went from the piston engine to the turbine engine. It was the 1950s that was the last time you saw an entirely new technology like this come together.
What comes next is analysis of all the flight data and comparing that to the models Eviation developed in the lab. The company expects production models of the Alice to be ready and certified by the FAA by 2027, but that’s subject to change.
The pace of battery tech is moving ahead quickly, which will affect the final production of the Alice in both good and bad ways. If Eviation could leverage lighter and energy-dense batteries, it could improve the plane’s performance. But improvements are likely to increase the zero-emission plane’s cost.
Three years ago, Eviation said the plane would have a list price of $4 million, Now that the price of precious battery metals has gone up, Eviation says not to rely on the prices initially mentioned. Airlines will likely have to pay a lot more come 2027, and with a nine-passenger capacity and up to 250 miles of range, it may not sound like a bargain. But this is a start.
Regional airlines Cape Air and Global Crossing Airlines, both based in the U.S., have placed orders for 75 and 50 Alice planes, respectively. Cape Air says it flies more than 400 regional flights per day in cities across the U.S. and Caribbean, and the Alice could “easily” cover 80 percent of its flights.
It’s not just regional airlines who are interested in the Alice. DHL Express plans to have a small fleet of all-electric planes, and the courier has placed an order for 12 Alice eCargo planes. Just like the passenger plane, the cargo version will have relatively low capacities compared to traditional planes. But, again, fully-electric planes are literally just getting off the ground.
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