An airplane called Alice could reshape regional travel as we know it, according to Israeli-based electric aircraft maker Eviation that is building the first of its all-electric passenger aircraft in France.
The all-electric aircraft will carry up to 9 passengers, have a range of up to 1,000kms, and allow air travel providers to offer flights between regional centres, rather than through a central, city hub.
APAC business development lead Ron Hoffman gave a briefing about the proposal on Friday at the Australian Electric Vehicle Association conference in Brisbane.
He says the maintenance and power costs of Alice’s emissions-free engine (presuming it’s charged with renewables) are around 30 per cent of conventional aircraft, which can cost $300 per flight hour for aviation fuel and $200 per flight hour for maintenance.
This means that tickets would be much, much cheaper.
“The price will be comparable to a train and faster than driving [for] hours in a car,” Hoffman tells The Driven.
“The interesting prospectus is that there is a whole, new bigger network that was never dreamt before as commercially viable.”
Carrying a 900kWh li-ion energy pack, Alice will be able to travel much further than other electric aircraft being developed, such as air taxis like Kitty Hawk’s Cora, which is being tested in New Zealand and can fly up to 100km per flight.
With Alice’s 1000km range, “new connections and new networks … suddenly make sense,” says Hoffman.
Additionally, because Alice has no engine noise, there is the possibility of being able to open up discount flight options in the curfew hours between 11pm and 5am.
Price wise, Hoffman says the aircraft will still be accessible to regional providers, costing about the same as the King Sir B350 such as is flown by the Royal Flying Doctor Service but with a similar quality of the higher specced Pilatus PC-12.
Alice opens up opportunities for not only passenger flights, says Hoffman, but also cargo and medivac flights.
With the first batch of aircraft already under production in France, Eviation plan to introduce Alice at the Paris Air Show next year.
After the air show, Eviation will take Alice to the US, where it will go through an FAA certification process to fly in US airspace.
Although Alice does not yet have certification from CASA to fly in Australia, Hoffman says with the recent certification of the 2-seater Pipistrel Alpha Electric civil electric airplane earlier this year, the prospect of Alice being able to do so in the future is definitely on the cards.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.