The first electric aircraft capable of carrying passengers has completed its flight test
The test take-off could pave the way for sustainable aviation. According to the company that built the plane, we will have to wait until 2027.
Tuesday 27 September, 7.10 am. Engines start with the sound of lawnmowers, more a hum than a roar overhead. The first electric aircraft designed for passengers takes off from Grant County International Airport, Washington. It’s day zero for green aviation. The plane, Alice is capable of carrying 9 people, flew for eight minutes, 1066 meters high, powered by two electric motors from 640 kW. This medium could be the first of a long series.
It is no longer a utopia to imagine small commuters and cargo planes flying from one regional airport to another. Without polluting. Or better. With energy-related emissions much lower than those of current flights. Alice could become the “first fully electric commercial aircraft”. From New York to Boston, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Alice’s producer, the Washington state company Eviation, thought it up precisely to cover distances of between 200 and 400 kilometers. Now you just have to wait for the Federal Aviation Administration to certify it for passenger transport, explains the Seattle Times. The goal of this first test was to collect data to improve the aircraft design.
“What we just did make aviation history,” he said Gregory Davispresident and CEO of Eviation after the flight. “It’s about changing the way we fly. It’s about connecting communities in a sustainable way ”. Alice’s maiden flight test took place more than three years after the prototype was presented at the Paris Air Show. Since then, Eviation has moved its base of operations from Israel to Arlington. “It was wonderful,” he said to Steve Crane, the test pilot who flew the plane. “He held up just as we thought. Very responsive, quick on the throttle, and made a wonderful landing. I couldn’t be happier ”.
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The battery problem
Its maximum load is 1000 chili and its operating speed may touch 500 kilometers per hour. There will be three versions of Alice. A nine-passenger commuter plane, a six-passenger luxury plane, and an e-cargo version. They are all small to hold the capacity of the batteries—one of the main problems for electric vehicles. The batteries are very heavy, if unbalanced they could reduce the efficiency of the aircraft. They are also not yet able to hold a sufficient charge capable of powering longer flights. Not only that, but they also represent a security problem, for example, lithium-ion batteries they can heat up uncontrollably and catch fire in the event of a breakdown.
To make air flights less polluting, alternative solutions are also being sought that go beyond completely electric transport. For example, the Biden administration is looking for sustainable fuels to make larger planes less polluting. These include corn, algae, and municipal waste. Alice, electric planes in general still need time. Not that much actually. “It looks like we will have some pretty good battery technology available in five years,” Greg Davis told the Times. According to the company’s estimates, we have to wait for 2027at that Alice could fly, for real.