After a substantial configuration change, Eviation is rapidly progressing the Alice prototype’s build, and plan to fly it this year.
The Eviation Alice project has been ongoing for some time. The design is for an all-electric aircraft, with a capacity of nine passengers and two crew. The aircraft’s original configuration called for three 350kw (476hp) electric motors. Two of these would be at the wing tips and the third in the tail, all running pusher propellers. The tail was a V configuration, with ‘ruddervators’.
However, the final configuration of the Eviation Alice has two 650kw (884hp) electric motors. They sit next to a T-tail with tractor propellers. We’ve seen many planes with tail-mounted engines and a T-tail, but those are generally jets. The only such designs with open props that come close, involve open-rotor jet engines.
The company had build a test aircraft in the previous configuration, which appeared in public on various occasions. Unfortunately, a battery fire destroyed this aircraft before it could fly. And with such a radical configuration change, the Eviation Alice could have faced delays in getting major supplier-furnished parts.
But if there were such delays, they must now be in the past. The company has already assembled the new fuselage and tail section. The Alice hasn’t got its wings on yet, but Eviation has taken delivery of them. The company is working with established suppliers in aviation, but also some from other industries. The empennage, wings and wiring systems are coming from GKN. Other components come from Multiplast, a French manufacturer of composite yacht hulls.
The New Layout of the Eviation Alice
Eviation states that the change in the configuration of the Alice came after consulting with potential customers. And these changes include the landing gear, which moved from a tail-dragger configuration to tricycle gear. Overall, the new configuration makes for an aircraft that is simpler in its construction. So far, the company has announced New England-based Cape Air as a customer, for 92 aircraft.
The supplier of the electric motors is MagniX. The Executive Chairman for Eviation is Roei Ganzarski who is also the CEO of MagniX. Clermont Group in Singapore owns both companies. MagniX recently unveiled newer versions of its electric motors – perhaps a factor in the configuration of the Eviation Alice.
Through MagniX, Eviation is benefiting from the motor maker’s partnership with Harbour Air. The Canadian float plane operator flew a de Havilland Beaver with an electric motor in 2019. MagniX is also flying its motors on other test beds, like the Cessna Caravan. One of the main limitations for all-electric aircraft is the batteries. Harbour Air’s first electric flight lasted only minutes, with a plane full of batteries.
However, Ganzarski points out that in the eighteen months since then, battery efficiency has improved 33%. Eviation Alice will have a range of 650 nautical miles (1,200 km), cruising at 260 knots. And the company believes that they can achieve this with current battery technology!
The company acknowledges that there are a lot of all-electric paper-projects out there. However, they hope to silence all skeptics later in the year, where the prototype Alice takes to the air. But the public won’t need to wait very long for Alice’s first flight!