Electric plane Alice takes first flight in the US

28 Sep 2022

The Alice aircraft. Image: Eviation

Alice, an electric plane built by Eviation, completed a successful test flight in the US. Meanwhile, hydrogen trains are up and running in Germany.

We might be one step closer to commercial electric aeroplanes after US-Israeli start-up Eviation Aircraft completed the first flight of its zero-emission aircraft yesterday (27 September).

Alice, Eviation’s fully electric prototype plane, took off from Grant County International Airport in the US state of Washington early yesterday morning. It sustained flight for eight minutes at an altitude of 3,500 feet.

Alice is the world’s first commuter aircraft powered entirely by electricity. It produces no carbon emissions, reduces noise and costs a fraction to operate per flight hour compared to similar sized fuel-powered aircraft such as light jets or high-end turboprops.

“Today we embark on the next era of aviation – we have successfully electrified the skies with the unforgettable first flight of Alice,” said Eviation CEO and president Gregory Davis.

“People now know what affordable, clean and sustainable aviation looks and sounds like for the first time in a fixed-wing, all-electric aircraft. This groundbreaking milestone will lead innovation in sustainable air travel, and shape both passenger and cargo travel in the future.”

Designed to carry up to nine passengers and two crew members, Alice is targeted towards both the commuter and cargo markets. It will typically undertake flights ranging from 150 miles to 250 miles and has a max operating speed of 260 knots – slower than most passenger jets.

While the company is aiming to deliver planes to customers by 2027, Eviation said demand for Alice is already picking up pace. Two US regional airlines, Cape Air and Global Crossing Airlines, have placed orders for 75 and 50 Alice aircraft respectively.

Meanwhile, delivery service DHL Express has become Eviation’s first cargo customer after ordering 12 Alice eCargo planes. Once the deal goes through, DHL aims to operate the first network of all-electric cargo planes – ushering in a new era of zero-emission flights.

Geoff Kehr, senior VP of global air fleet management at DHL, said that Alice’s first flight “confirms our belief that the era of sustainable aviation is here”.

“Alice is the true game changer by enabling long distance air transport for the first time with zero emissions. This historic flight marks a significant milestone on our journey to ultimately achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”

News of this potential step forward in air travel comes at a time when the world’s first hydrogen trains have begun running in Germany.

French rail transport company Alstom said its hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint train set a distance of 1,175km on one tank of hydrogen on a journey undertaken in Germany earlier this month. The only emission is water and significantly lower levels of noise.

Alstom noted that 1,175km is equivalent to circumnavigating in Ireland from Dublin via Monaghan, Sligo, Westport, Galway, Limerick, Dingle, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow and back to Dublin.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic