Eviation and its aircraft Alice have made a name for themselves as industry disruptors. Alice's maiden voyage September 2022 was the first ever all-electric flight of a fixed-wing aircraft, proof that what many believed was the future of flight has already arrived. We sat down with Eviation's President and CEO Gregory Davis to find out more about the company, its brainchild Alice, and what the future looks like through Eviation's eyes.
Eviation has emerged as a titan of the sustainable aerospace industry in a relatively short space of time, having been founded in 2015. Can you give us a timeline of how Eviation came to exist and become a standard-bearer for sustainable aviation?
Eviation was founded in 2015 in Israel. In 2019, we unveiled the prototype of our all-electric Alice aircraft at the Paris Air Show, and in 2020, we moved our headquarters to Arlington, WA. In 2022, we moved Alice over to Moses Lake to take advantage of the test facilities at the Grant County International Airport.
On September 27, 2022, Alice successfully took to the skies for the first time, flying for 8 minutes at an altitude of 3,500 feet. We made history as the first all-electric commuter aircraft built from the ground up to take flight. With this flight, Eviation proved that the technology for all-electric flight is viable now, and that a new era of carbon free, convenient, and cost-effective air travel is here. Alice is a technological leap that promises to change the culture of air travel for future generations.
Eviation first made waves in 2017, unveiled the Orca concept drone at the Paris Air Show. At the 2019 Paris Air Show, Alice was unveiled – the functional prototype for a nine-passenger, two-crew electric aircraft. It’s safe to say that Alice has revolutionized electric aviation and, perhaps more importantly, public perception of electric aviation. How long has Alice been in development and where did the initial idea – and name – come from?
Alice is the result of an iterative process that began in 2015 to create what we believe is the all-electric aircraft of the future. The first prototype, a drone named the Orca, was inspired by the marine mammal’s speed and agility. This was the foundation for the Alice you see today.
Once work started on the full size aircraft, Eviation had many late nights which gave the team ample time to ponder how best to name the world’s first all-electric aircraft. On one of those nights, the song “White Rabbit” came on, and we heard the line ‘go ask Alice.’ The team immediately knew that the aircraft’s name should be a play on Alice in Wonderland – a story of wonder, exploration, and discovery.
What were the biggest hurdles in developing Alice? How much changed when you incorporated magniX, the cutting-edge electric propulsion technology, to Alice’s design?
Designing electric engine systems that could propel an aircraft was not easy. magniX has advanced so far beyond previous electric motors to the point where our magniX systems provide twice as much power as what our original aircraft designs demanded. This meant that we were able to change the configuration from three motors to two motors, reducing the overall weight and complexity of the aircraft. This makes the design more efficient.
What do you think the next ten years will look like for Alice-style eco-planes, in terms of their commercial use, and more widely the availability of engines of a nature similar to magniX?
In a decade, clean, easily accessible all-electric aviation will no longer need the “all-electric” prefix to it – it will become the norm. For travelers, flying electric will be more economical while providing a sustainable, emission-free way to travel. Operators will benefit from lower costs due to fuel savings and reduced maintenance costs.
Electric aviation will also open up more opportunities for communities where aviation has become limited. For example, there are more than 2000 underutilized airports in the United States and noise restrictions reduce access to more than 200 airports in the US alone. Electric aviation will bring aviation closer to where we live and work, providing for more convenient travel and movement of goods.
How many versions of Alice exist, and what is each version tailored for?
Alice is available in three versions: commuter, eCargo, and executive cabin.
The commuter aircraft can accommodate nine passengers and two crew members with a maximum payload of 2,500 pounds. It offers the largest baggage compartment in its class at 100 cubic feet and total baggage allowance of 850 lbs.
The eCargo version of Alice is identical to the commuter variant except for the interior. Equipped with forward and aft access doors and one continuous cargo bay with 450 cubic feet of cargo capacity – the highest cargo carrying capacity in its class – Alice is designed for rapid loading and unloading of cargo for quicker turns.
The Executive version of Alice combines luxury details and comfort solutions. Passengers can enjoy a modern and elegant interior with six executive seats.
Concept images of the commuter, executive and cargo models respectively. (Eviation)
Is Alice Eviation’s final, long-term design, or do you have other concepts in the pipeline?
The production configuration of Alice will look similar to the test demonstrator which flew in Moses Lake. It is optimized for all-electric flight and operational use.
What needs to change in the mainstream, fossil fuel-powered sector of the aerospace industry to achieve a green revolution?
Sustainable aviation is going to require a mix of technologies to replace existing combustion-based power. Electric, hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuel, and hybrids serve different missions. We have chosen an all-electric approach as it is well-suited to the regional air mobility market.
To make a significant impact on the environment, sustainable aviation must be supported and adopted globally. Today, aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, its share of climate impact is expected to be 25-50% if nothing is done. Governments and airlines worldwide must chart a path towards sustainable aviation so that flying remains a fast, easy and effective way to travel.
Recently, you announced Aerus’ commitment to buy 30 aircraft. Are there any other deals on the horizon that you can discuss in any detail? Can we expect to see Alice aircraft at airports globally in the coming years?
Alice is capturing the hearts and minds of the global marketplace. The order book for Alice has already passed US$3 billion with over 300 aircraft on order. In addition to Aerus, customers including DHL, Air New Zealand, Cape Air, GlobalX, EVIA AERO, Australia’s Northern Territory Air Services and others are choosing Alice to electrify their fleets.
We are aiming to bring Alice to market in the next five years. We expect to begin certification flight tests in 2025, with entry into service targeted for 2027.
What drove Eviation to pursue battery-powered flight, as opposed to hydrogen or hybrid aircraft?
Battery-powered flight allows us to make rapid progress on the path to sustainable aviation. First, we can already achieve zero-emission aviation using battery technology that exists today. We proved this last year with the first flight of Alice. Second, a battery-powered approach allows us to utilize infrastructure available at today’s airports. Last, battery-powered flight is not dependent on new regulations that will be required with other approaches to sustainable aviation.
Alice is a unique-looking aircraft. Was that a deliberate aesthetic choice, or an outcome of practical considerations to optimize the aircraft?
From the beginning, we designed Alice to reflect the next generation of air travel. Alice combines engineering excellence with an elegant and sophisticated aesthetic. While we made some changes to the original design to optimize the aircraft, the futuristic look of Alice remains central to our approach.
Can we expect Eviation to produce aircraft capable of long-haul flight in the future?
For now, we are focused on transforming short, regional flights through electric aviation. This represents a significant portion of flights around the world. We believe this is the sweet spot for an electric airplane based on battery technology, regulations and certification requirements. You can expect us to explore new segments driven by either untapped demand, or new demand created through new technologies.