Imagine a future where a 322-kilometer (200-mile) journey is as quick, easy and affordable as a local commute. Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO and co-founder of Israel-based Eviation Aircraft, believes that future is just around the corner, made possible by small electric airplanes that travelers will summon on demand, much like a taxi.
The Alice Commuter, Eviation’s first zero-emission, all-electric plane and the embodiment of that vision, made its debut in June at the 53rd Paris Air Show.
Bar-Yohay, a 15-year veteran of the aviation and aerospace industries, sees Alice as the first step to achieving his vision.
“My wife would describe me as a megalomaniac,” he said. “But I would say I’m just very much in love with the idea of solving challenges – especially that of our global transportation system, which is fundamentally broken.”
The nature of the problem, he said, is that travelers today must accommodate their schedules to the convenience of carriers – and to their limitations.
“If you think about it, we have to sit in traffic every time we travel to a city by car,” he said. “If we travel by high-speed rail we can only go from the center of one megacity to the center of another. If we fly, we’re probably flying 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) in the wrong direction just to fly another 200 kilometers (124 miles) in the right direction – and then we still must drive to get to where we want to go. What’s most painful about this is that we don’t see it. We don’t see the problem because we cannot imagine solutions.”
Bar-Yohay has done more than imagine a solution. With help from a cloud-based business experience platform, he has created one.
“We’ve adopted a gold-standard solution that has allowed our engineers to design, simulate and build the first all-electric, nine-seat aircraft,” he said.
The Alice was built from the ground up to be an electric aircraft, with innovation in aerodynamic design, structural and subsystem integration, control software, thermal management and propulsion systems. This combination of systemic improvements has enabled the ground-breaking performance and made the plane an economically viable product.
The plane can travel as far as 1,046 kilometers (650 miles) on a single charge of its 900-kilowatt-hour battery. Operating costs will be just 7 cents to 9 cents per seat per mile, or approximately US$200 per hour for the whole aircraft, compared with about US$1,000 for conventional airplanes.
“A full-scale version of Alice has been in development since mid-2017, and we expect it to take demonstration flights later this year,” Bar-Yohay said. “By 2021, we expect it to be certified and flying on the first proof-of-service route.”
To start, Bar-Yohay envisions regional airlines using Alice to shuttle people between regional airports, replacing aging aircraft that are expensive to maintain and operate and offer sub-par customer experiences. The Alice will not only redefine regional transportation by allowing commuters to circumvent road congestion, Bar-Yohay said, but also will introduce emission-free, all-electric aviation.
“We want people to live where they want to live and work where it makes sense to work,” Bar-Yohay said. “We’re in the middle of an information technology revolution. We can move information anytime and anywhere from the palm of our hands. We need to start moving people and goods as easily as technology allows us to. Once we can do this, then the planet becomes a better, cleaner and more efficient place.”
The key to achieving this vision, he said, is to make sustainable choices more economical. “And that’s what’s beautiful about Alice,” he said. “It’s a product we think is going to revolutionize transportation. And we think it’s going to do it soon.”
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