An emission-free aircraft startup company is debuting its new commuter class all-electric plane with Cape Air, which offers flights to Hyannis and other locations from Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
Designed and constructed by Israel-based plane developer Eviation the Alice is the industry’s first commuter-class aircraft that relies solely on electric power.
At the Paris Air Show, the chief executive officer for Eviation, Omer Bar-Yohay, announced that Cape Air would be the first customer to implement the new efficient aircraft technology, with “double-digit” order numbers.
Eviation is setting up a first flight for the plane later in the year, and it will be assembled and certified by around 2021. Dan Wolf, Cape Air’s founder and CEO, said delivery of the Alice to carriers for commercial use could be as soon as 2022, although that is an ambitious goal and the planes might not be used by Cape Air until later.
The Alice is a composite aircraft designed to fly nine passengers up to 650 miles on a single charge, and according to Wolf, will revolutionize the world of regional transportation. “Eviation is at the forefront of electric planes,” Wolf said.
Although the plane is still in its developmental stages, two different versions of the Alice are planned. The initial model will be used for air-taxi operations, and will use energy stored in a lithium-ion battery. The following version will be an extended-range executive aircraft with a larger, more powerful aluminum-air battery.
Similar to doing a piston engine overhaul in a normal aircraft after a milestone number of air miles traveled, the planes require that the batteries be replaced after a certain number of cycles.
Wolf explained that Cape Air has historically been a company that strives to be as environmentally responsible as possible, and will continue to push for more efficient means of air travel. “We recognize the immediate need to address climate change, and are very interested in reducing our carbon footprint,” Wolf said.
Cape Air has its own sustainability program that promotes sustainable practices both at home and at work. The airline has distributed thousands of compact fluorescent light bulbs to its employees, and facilitates home solar feasibility studies for workers.
They also installed two solar arrays at the Barnstable airport, and are currently working on putting up another, according to Wolf.
But Wolf said the all-electric Alice is just the catalyst for a monumental paradigm shift, where regional airlines will begin to shift away from petroleum-based fuels. “The challenge is not only to implement electric technology. You have to build an infrastructure to accommodate those changes,” Wolf said.
Wolf explained how airports will install chargers so planes can juice up before a flight. Cape Air plans to charge the new aircraft using energy generated from the airport’s solar arrays.
In the future, Wolf said, he is excited for Cape Air to continue leading the charge in electric aircraft technology, and is proud to be early in this trend of aviation.
Assistant airport director Geoff Freeman said he is happy Cape Air can again be at the forefront of environmentally responsible aviation. He said there is “a lot of movement” in the aviation realm that goes largely unnoticed, because “airlines aren’t normally associated with environmental efficiency.”
“It is really cool to see some of this start to happen and take shape,” Freeman said. “The technology is out there, and it will continue to grow.”
Freeman said the aircraft industry is still in its infancy of biofuels and alternative power, but the future of non-petroleum air travel is bright.
“I think at some point we may see larger planes using this technology, but not likely in the near future,” Freeman said. “We at the airport will be there to support this in any way we can. We will have to adapt, but that is a good thing.”