Many of us are just coming to grips with the possibility of owning a battery powered car, we may as well make peace with the fact that the future of flight is electric as well . And just as with ground vehicles, nothing pushes along new tech like some sex appeal. Tesla did that for cars, with sleek looks and ludicrous acceleration. Now, Eviation Aircraft wants to do the same for the sky.
At last week's Paris Air Show, the Israeli company unveiled a prototype electric light aircraft, a private jet without the jet engines. Eviation says that because it designed the Alice Commuter plane to be all-electric from the outset, it could re-imagine key components, like the design of the sleek composite airframe, and placement of the motors, without the usual constraints of heavy engines and fuel tanks.
The Alice Commuter looks like the future should: sleek, white, and pointy. Round portholes dot the length of the cabin, which can carry up to nine people and two crew. The aircraft is just a fraction over 12 meters long with a 13,5 meter wingspan, is roughly the same size as the Beechcraft King Air.
Powering the Alice are Siemens motors, though Eviation announced a second engine option for the MagniX engine in late April.
Siemens has become a key driver in numerous of all-electric designs. A tail-mounted propeller does the bulk of the work, with help from the propellers at the tip of each wing, each driven by an electric motor. To keep everything spinning, Eviation's engineers plan to install a 980-kWh, lithium-ion battery pack, about the equivalent of the storage in 10 top-of-the-range Teslas. That's enough, Eviation says, to fly 600 miles at more than 250 mph. Eviation claim that if there was a problem with the two wing engines, it could continue flying on the rear rotor only.
Two versions of the Alice are planned. The initial model is intended for air taxi operations, with energy stored in a lithium-ion battery, Eviation is building a prototype scheduled to fly in later this year and aims to certify it under the FAR Part 23 for IFR and known icing conditions. The second model will be an extended-range ER executive aircraft available by 2023, with a more powerful aluminium-air battery with a lithium-polymer buffer, a cabin pressurised to 4,000 ft at FL 280, equipped Garmin G5000 Avionics.
Electric aircraft, with no need for oil changes, engine rebuilds, or expensive jet fuel, could cut operating costs and make the dream of private air travel a little more affordable.
The electric revolution is making its mark at this year’s Paris Air Show with industry giants such as Airbus to Nascent joining Eviation in highlighting technologies that include electric aircraft, urban air mobility vehicles, and autonomous advancements. Their arrival at the show signifies that these technologies will likely become a key component of the future market.
Electric propulsion research is being carried out throughout the industry with major engine-makers such as Rolls-Royce, GE, Honeywell, and Pratt & Whitney all testing hybrid-electric concepts. UTC is investing $50 million in a new lab, “The Grid,” that is devoted to the development of new electric power technologies for future electric and hybrid aircraft. This includes research to further the Project 804, a hybrid demonstrator that involves a re-engined de Havilland Dash 8-100 stationed at Pratt & Whitney’s facility in Montreal, Quebec.