By Elena Gorgan
The electric revolution is slow in coming to the automotive industry, but that’s nothing compared to the snail-like crawl it’s displaying in aviation. Alice wants to change all that and, in the process, shake up the game.
Alice is dubbed the world’s first electric luxury commuter airplane. It’s the first aircraft from Israeli-American company Eviation, and it comes with an estimated delivery date for 2024. This year, Eviation hopes to take Alice on its first test flights ahead of a 2023 certification.
Alice has been around for years, in one form or another, and it’s one of those few projects of this type that are both instantly memorable and extremely promising. It’s a proper passenger plane, so not an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft), and it’s meant for commuting across short distances. It’s also very luxurious and quite beautiful.
First announced in 2017, Alice is now officially gearing up to take to the skies. A prototype was developed and unveiled in 2019, but it burned down in a fire in 2020. A static model was presented at the Paris Air Show and, had it not been for the health crisis of 2020, Alice would have started test flights. Not that 2020 was able to put a damper on its progress: Eviation has been working hard to advance the project and, at the same time, keep investors and potential customers in the loop.
Interest in Alice is understandably high, too. By October 2019, Eviation reported orders for over 150 Alice planes from just two companies. Considering each unit would sell at an estimated price of $4 million, that’s a lot of cash in potential revenue.
Eviation initially planned two versions of Alice: an unpressurized one meant for air taxiing (so a cheaper model) and a pressurized one for extended flights. For the time being, it’s only working on one model, the pressurized Alice Commuter. It can carry up to nine passengers and two pilots and promises the most chill, fabulous and noise-free trip to wherever you need to be—as long as it’s not farther than 506 miles (814 km).
That’s the estimated per-charge range of Alice. It’s not a lot, and this is why this is a commuter aircraft.
Alice is powered by three Magnix Electric Propulsion Units, Magni250s 280-kW (375-hp) motors in pusher configuration: two propellers at the tip of each wing and one on the tail. These are powered by a massive lithium-ion battery pack of 820 kWh, which, at 8,200 lb (3,720 kg), accounts for 60% of the aircraft’s entire payload. The batteries are rated for 1,000 cycles or 3,000 hours of flight.
Eviation estimates that, for each hour of flight, Alice will have to charge for 30 minutes, using mobile charging vehicles similar to aviation fuel trucks. It will be able to cruise at speeds of 253 mph (407 kph), and the electric motors will make the flight a more pleasant experience because of reduced noise and the complete absence of emissions.
Made with composite materials to cut down on weight as much as possible, Alice will first be made available in the United States and the European Union. As noted above, deliveries are estimated to begin in 2024, with a $4 million rumored price point.
Eviation is convinced that “the future of transport is electric,” so Alice will pave the way for everyone else. It will redefine air mobility and kickstart a new era of commuter solutions: luxurious yet cost-effective and, perhaps just as important, sustainable.
“Alice is not a great plane we managed to make electric. It’s a great plane because it’s electric,” Eviation says. Let’s hope the day comes when we can talk about Alice in the present tense without wishful thinking and estimates.