Israeli venture capital-backed Eviation has set a date of 2021 for its “Alice” 9-seat electric commuter aircraft to enter into service. The company has just signed a deal with South Korea’s Kokam as its battery supplier. Eviation is one of a number of companies looking to produce small electric aircraft that will consume less power, have lower emissions, be quieter than and have lower operating costs than its conventionally fueled counterparts.
Part of the reason for the tie up with Kokam for battery supply is the South Korean manufacturer can adapt its production processes to meet with Eviation’s specific needs yet on an initial low-volume scale.
“If I would go today to Samsung or Panasonic or LG Chem or Tesla for that matter and say I need a different cell size, they will probably laugh because the number of cells we are going to buy is not significant enough to start the design process,” Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay told Reuters in a phone interview.
Eviation is planning to fly the Alice demonstrator on its maiden flight by the end of this year, with the first public display aimed for the Paris Airshow in mid-2019, he said. Moving to commercial production after that would require raising around $100 million of capital, Bar-Yohay also confirmed.
Electric airplanes are currently relying on improvements in battery technology, which is why smaller aircraft will take to the skies long before large commercial jets. The battery in Alice will have 9,400 cells distributed throughout the aircraft including the ceiling, floor and wings, and will weigh 3.8 tons, which equates to approximately 60 percent of the maximum takeoff weight.
Batteries are heavy and store far less energy per kilogram than jet fuel, though the ratio is continuously improving each year, allowing electric cars and airplanes longer ranges than they had previously.
Eviation’s Alice airplane should have a range of up to 650 nautical miles (1200 kilometers), roughly 15 percent further than a similar-sized conventional Cessna Caravan. The cost is expected to be around US$2 million-plus, similar to the Cessna, but will offer lower fuel and maintenance costs, according to Bar-Yohay.
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