CEO Interview: Eviation Alice’s Trajectory

CEO Interview: Eviation Alice’s Trajectory

DALLAS — Eviation’s Alice is the only electric “aircraft” that has made it from paper to reality at this moment. Upon completing its first-ever flight back in September of last year, the team has been busy working on an immense amount of data collected in that short sortie.

Alice is expected to shuttle nine passengers over a range of 250 nm with the type’s entry scheduled for 2027 – can it be done? Airways Siddharth Ganesh sits down with Eviation’s CEO, Gregory Davis, and discusses what’s next after the first flight, upcoming milestones, and the hurdles to jump.

SG: Ever since Alice’s first flight back in September of last year, where do you stand now, what’s the milestone for 2023?

GD: We completed Alice’s first flight on September 27, and it was a great achievement, for the company and for the industry. We’re continuing to increase momentum with our sales orders, and we see tremendous interest in the aircraft.

Right now, we are focused on optimizing the aircraft based on the flight data we received from Alice’s maiden flight in September as we push toward the final version of the design.

So, do you want to close in on the final version this year?

Yes, we are working toward the final design of Alice and selecting our key supply chain partners to support the build and ultimate production of Eviation’s all-electric aircraft. While we are experts in providing high-voltage electric systems to an aircraft, it is equally as important to select partners that are experts at building wings, landing gear, avionics, and so forth.

Photo: Eviation

Are most of your potential suppliers from North America or are they global, which could face delays in supply?

To date, our timing has been favorable; we completed our first flight while facing one of the worst supply chain challenges in a post-pandemic landscape. The good news is that supply chain issues are improving significantly and will continue on that trajectory.

We are aware of risks in the global supply chain and are doing everything possible to mitigate them.

What did you learn from that first flight?

First Flight was important to validate the models that we used to predict the performance of the aircraft. For example, we learned that the flight controls were more responsive than we anticipated. We were also able to validate power consumption and ESS heat rejection in the air with a few percent accuracy.

The key takeaway is that all the systems worked together, which was very important for us to demonstrate.

When does Alice take to the skies for a second time?

Right now we are focused on finalizing the design with the goal of beginning certification testing in 2025, targeting entry into service in 2027. Future flights will be driven by program requirements. We will decide on the next flight based on the company’s needs as we work to develop a certification aircraft.

Photo: Eviation

Since you mentioned 2027, how confident are you about Alice’s entry by this point?

2027 is an achievable deadline. Look at any aircraft certification process, and you see an approximate five-year span to get a FAR23 aircraft certified. Every step corresponds to a timeline set by the regulators.

So while we can’t change that, we are working closely with them to get the aircraft certified as soon as possible.

Alice would be launched with a 375-watt-hour per kilogram battery.

That is exactly the right number, and battery technology for this exists today. In the past few years, battery tech has advanced at a very exciting rate.

For example, NASA has a roadmap for 500 watt-hours per kilogram, and there are others as well. Batteries are expected to improve by three percent a year, and while there are limits to chemistry, we can surely go further.

What about battery degradation, and would it be based on flight cycles?

Our batteries are targeted for 3000 cycles. We’ll have a program for the used batteries after we have finished using them on the aircraft.

And what about the battery overhaul/ replacement? How pricey would that be?

We’re conscious of operational and maintenance costs. With an electric aircraft, there are a lot of costs that can be saved on both the airframe engine. When you balance all of the costs, including battery replacement, it is approximately 40% less to operate our electric aircraft compared to a conventional turboprop in the same class.

How long does the battery swap take?

The battery swap will be an overnight maintenance event.

We’re looking at one hour of flight time that corresponds to 30 minutes of charge time on the ground.

That’s exactly right.

Are you confident of this for the launch version?

It is a design consideration. Let’s contrast this with an automotive battery used for electric vehicles. In a car, people go wherever they want at any time of day so that is a different way of treating the power of the battery. With an aircraft, the passenger gets on at a specific point, and the plane flies a well-defined route A to B, landing at a precise location.

The utilization cases are very different, which means we have a clear understanding of what the design point for our battery should be versus an automotive one.

What about the airframe’s life?

We are designing a high-cycle aircraft for a 25-year economic life.

Photo: Eviation

The initially listed range of 440 Nm was brought down to 250 Nm, comment?

Half of the world’s air travel is less than 500 nm and 20-30% is 250 nm or less. So, our accessible market for Alice at entry into service is rather large.
We are quite comfortable at this range. There are thousands of city pairings that can be accessed with this range.

You have a good rhythm to your order book. Comment?

The order book for Alice has already passed US$3bn 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.

It’s great momentum, and you can expect more announcements soon.

Fulfilling those orders, what does the Alice Production rate look like?

The supply chain has the capacity to meet the rate we’re targeting. It’s going to be similar to other commuter-size aircraft. We will begin production at a sizable rate and continue to scale up. Ultimately, our rate will also be based on our order backlog.

To conclude, do you have any lessors interested?

Yes, I can confirm that we are in talks with the lessors.

Featured image: Alice | Photo: Eviation

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