Aircraft

Alice electric plane ditches a motor as it gears up for first flight

Alice electric plane ditches a...
Eviation hopes to fly its Alice electric plane for the first time this year
Eviation hopes to fly its Alice electric plane for the first time this year
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Eviation hopes to fly its Alice electric plane for the first time this year
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Eviation hopes to fly its Alice electric plane for the first time this year
The Eviation team with the new T-tail design of the Alice electric plane in the background
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The Eviation team with the new T-tail design of the Alice electric plane in the background
Eviation's leadership team from the left: Executive Chairman Roei Ganzarski, CEO Omer Bar-Yohay and President Gregory Davis
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Eviation's leadership team from the left: Executive Chairman Roei Ganzarski, CEO Omer Bar-Yohay and President Gregory Davis
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As it edges towards the first flights for its Alice aircraft, Eviation has finally unveiled what it says is the production version of the all-electric nine-seater. This final configuration is the one the aviation startup will move forward with as it pursues certification, with the first test flights now slated for later in the year.

Israel's Eviation first introduced its Alice aircraft at the Paris Air Show in 2019, showing off a prototype plane designed from the ground up for electric flight. Like others in the electric aviation space, Eviation hopes to service shorter routes of 500 to 1,000 km (310 to 621 miles), using onboard batteries and advanced propulsion systems to cover these distances while generating no carbon emissions.

From the first renders released back in 2019 to the most recent version we looked at in March this year, Alice's design featured a set of three 260-kW electric motors, one on the end of its tail and one on each of its wingtips. This formed part of a distinctive V-tail configuration, with the motor and props on the tail's end designed to accelerate air around the fuselage and turn the aircraft's entire body into an additional wing surface for bonus lift.

In a major departure from this, the production version now unveiled by the company ditches the V-tail setup in favor of a T-tail configuration and drops one of the motors entirely. Replacing the three 260-kW motors from MagniX are a pair of the company's new and more powerful 640-kW motors, mounted to either side of the fuselage.

The Eviation team with the new T-tail design of the Alice electric plane in the background
The Eviation team with the new T-tail design of the Alice electric plane in the background

Eviation says this final design has been optimized through "real-world lessons" and customer feedback. The specs listed for this production-ready version include an unchanged range of 814 km (506 miles), an unchanged cruise speed of 407 km/h (253 mph), a payload capacity of 1,130 kg (2,500 lb) and space for nine passengers and two crew.

"Sharing our production Alice design is a special day for Eviation and our partners," said Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay. "It also represents a final step in our iterative journey toward Alice's first flight. Electric aviation will continue to open up new possibilities for affordable, sustainable regional travel around the world. Alice is poised to turn that possibility into reality soon."

The company also says that Alice is on track to take to the skies for the first time later this year, and expects it to enter service in 2024.

Source: Eviation via PRNewswire

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10 comments
10 comments
dan
real world? 100 years of aircraft design is based on physics given by nature. as promised by this company, they fly 2 h (plus 45 minutes reserve?) with two 640 kW engines. assuming for cruise speed only a total 500 kW are needed, this concept has a battery weight of more or less 10'000 pounds (500 kW x 3 hours / 300 W/kg). So, for every passenger you have to take roughly 1'000 pounds of batteries with you??? I don't get it. it is neither ecological nor profitable (75 % less payload!). Can anybody help?
Robt
@dan To an extent, your skepticism is merited, so I’ll lay out the advantages
1) Localised pollution drops to zero
2) Significant reduction in noise affecting surrounding areas
3) Huge reduction in vibration compared to existing turboprop aircraft
4) Massive reduction in maintenance costs. An electric motor has one moving part and they’re a fraction of the cost of a turbine, partially offsetting the battery costs
5) Significant reduction in fuel costs, on a per flight basis
Finally, a not insignificant factor is customer satisfaction, which (and I admit it’s only a guess) will be very substantial when they first fly in it.
dan
@Robt. Thank you for your reply. Interesting thoughts, thanks.
1) in particular in travelling medium or long distances, the overall eco-friendliness seems to be important. If we destroy the planet by local zero emission, it will not help...
2) and 3) I guess very true, but they need to prove that.
4) Maybe, maintenance of the electric motor would nearly be zero, I guess. But the total system counts, e.g. battery change/charging time/safety or maintenance of components. Yes, maybe 10 times cheaper, but also 10 times less energetic... We will see.
5) I guess that is the main point: Some very rich want to say they fly electrically (can show off as for laypersons it may look ecological...) Thanks Robt for your thoughts!
Towerman
Congratulations ! Electrics is a growing storm waiting to be unleashed, and cracks in the clouds are starting to appear. @Robt Only half your list already outweighs the negatives of ICE's.

Batteries will only become lighter or more dense and lighter at the same times, so it makes perfect sense to start implementing electrics and reap the benefits. Fuels hog's are yesterdays news and yesterday's headaches.

Don Duncan
dan: "We will see." Yes, thanks to some entrepreneurs. We wouldn't have seen the BEV in our lifetimes were it not for world's greatest tycoon who saw a large pent-up demand being ignored by the legacy car manufacturers. Responding to that with exceptional innovation Elon Musk is disrupting/pioneering ground transport. Would this plane be possible without his example? Would the recent breakthrough in recycling be here? Would all the research to improve batteries be going on? I think not.
My point is: It's easy to criticize and you are correct about the areas needing work, but no progress is possible if all questions need to be answered in advance. Exploration is dangerous, sometimes deadly, and not for the timid. That's why the worldwide political paradigm of forced centralized control is so destructive. Bureaucrats/politicians are reactive, not proactive. Our species will be saved by the big risk takers, not the obedience followers of govt. edicts.
-dphiBbydt
I recall similar arguments 10-12 years ago which, in essence, said electric cars would never be popular and here we are, a few years later, with all the major car manufacturers phasing out all ICE powered vehicles. Maybe air travel will go through a hydrogen fuel source period but in the end, when, iteratively, we find better ways of storing electrons in denser and lighter packages, all air travel will be electric as well. I hope to see the day when then only time carbon based or hydrogen fuels are used is during rocket launches.
James Goggans
Will it be economic to fly 9 passengers while requiring two pilots?
Ralf Biernacki
This is a very sensible change; as I commented in a previous article on this plane, locating the motors at wingtips was a design mistake for several reasons, the most important of which were the necessity for a much heavier wing structure and inability to fly with one motor disabled.

The present configuration removes the biggest flaw in the design, and raises my hopes in Alice, which now has both a pretty and a robustly designed airframe. Will this be enough to overcome the main weakness of e-planes, which is their abysmal power-to weight ratio? We'll see when it flies, but IMO Alice has a better chance than the other e-plane designs I've seen, that either have weird and inefficient configurations, or are brazen vaporware to begin with. Or both.
dan
@DonDuncan: Thank you, working myself in R&D, I am fascinated about new technologies and opportunities. And if I do remember correctly, the very first car that was invented, was an electric one! On the ground, for stop and go in traffic and up to medium distance etc. electrification makes sense! Up in the sky weight efficiency is king. And batteries still are around 20 times less power-dense than fuel. I know many are optimistic and improvement are constant. Unfortunately, all these concept rely on fantastic batteries, that are not available, not even in labs. They may increase power-density a few percentage each year, but we need an increase of 10'000 percentage. So, synthetic fuel, hydrogen or other technologies might be far more effective. And this is my critique: please, distinguish interesting R&D from real world business cases. Any commercial fleet operator would rather sell 10'000 pounds of cargo each flight and plant some trees for nearly nothing (CO2 compensation), than using 1'000 pound battery for every single passenger. I am not sure how we safe ourselves, but surely it will help the planet if we walk, use less our cars, use smaller and lighter cars etc. The same works in the sky. So, become lighter per PAX is a proven strategy, not heavier!
paroway@gmail.com
It seems the battery weight is lower than you think, and within a short time with solid state construction and increased energy to weight will drop more. At 3,700kg (8,200lb), the batteries account for 60% of the aircraft take-off weight.