‘This is real’: Electric aircraft maker Eviation set to fly battery-powered plane this year
Seattle-area electric aircraft builder Eviation revealed Thursday that it has begun assembling the first production of Alice, its nine-passenger, battery-powered aircraft.
The company is on track to fly the plane for the first time later this year, Executive Chairman Roei Ganzarski said.
“It’s a huge step, in that you look around at electric aviation and you see a lot of cool CGI graphics and ‘orders,’ but you don’t actually see an airplane,” he said. “But this is real. It’s being built in our hangars and we’re about to go fly it.”
Eviation has reached firm design configuration, a key milestone in the development of any new aircraft. In the argot of aerospace development, that milestone means that Eviation’s designers have locked in all design elements for the Alice, so that suppliers can use those blueprints to create their own drawings.
But Ganzarski said the announcement was more of a formality, and that suppliers have already delivered parts needed for Eviation’s mechanics to start building the first plane.
“The plane is being built as we speak,” Ganzarski said.
Those suppliers include European aerospace supplier GKN, which is providing the composite wings and tail stabilizers for the Alice; Multiplast, a French company with a background in building composite yacht hulls that is building the Alice’s fuselage; and magniX, Eviation’s Everett, Wash.-based sister company, which delivered the motors for the first Alice in May.
Both Eviation and magniX are owned by Singapore-based Clermont group, and Ganzarski is both chairman of Eviation and CEO of magniX. Both companies are located in Snohomish County, north of Seattle, which also is home to Boeing’s largest plant and close to 400 other aerospace supply companies.
There have been changes to the Alice’s design since the first prototype was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June 2019.
Most-notably, where the prototype had three motors driving pusher propellers mounted on the wing tips and tail, the production design has two motors with tractor propellers mounted under the tail.
The original plan was for magniX to supply three 350 kw motors for each plane. Instead, the company will provide two 650 kw motors.
In addition, the tail itself has changed from a V-shape to a T-shape, and the landing gear has been rearranged into a “tricycle” configuration more traditional for planes this size. That means the production Alice will sit more parallel to the tarmac than the prototype Alice, which sat nose-up.
Ganzarski said the changes were driven by customer feedback. “How do we make it more applicable and attractive to the operators, so they can more-easily integrate the aircraft into the fleet?”
He said that battery performance has improved since magniX began its first test flights in 2019 with Harbour Air in Vancouver, Canada. He said magniX itself has better learned how to use and deploy batteries, which also is boosting performance.
But the Alice can and will fly using batteries that are available now. “It’s reality instead of vision,” Ganzarski said.