Alice, the first all-electric passenger airplane, takes flight

New York CNN Business  — 

The world’s first all-electric passenger aircraft has successfully taken to the sky.

Israeli-founded company Eviation Aircraft successfully launched the Alice on Tuesday morning from Washington’s Grant County International Airport. The zero-emission plane traveled at an altitude of 3,500 feet for its eight-minute inaugural flight.

“This is history,” Gregory Davis, Eviation’s president and CEO, told CNN Business.”We have not seen the propulsion technology change on the aircraft since we went from the piston engine to the turbine engine. It was the 1950s that was the last time you saw an entirely new technology like this come together.”

With battery technology similar to that of an electric car or a cell phone and 30 minutes of charging, the nine-passenger Alice will be able to fly for one hour to two hours. Based on today’s battery technology, Eviation is targeting a range of 250 nautical miles. As recently as April, Eviation had said the Alice would be able to fly about 440 nautical miles. The plane has a max cruise speed of 250 knots, or 287 miles per hour. For reference, a Boeing 737 has a max cruise speed of 588 miles per hour.

Eviation was founded in 2015 and has been pushing the Alice forward ever since. The company hopes to use the information gathered during Tuesday’s flight to review next steps and deliver aircrafts to customers by 2027 — though Eviation warns that plan is subject to change.

“We’ve actually generated, frankly, terabytes of data with the data acquisition systems that we had on the aircraft, so we’re going to take a couple of weeks actually and review it to see how the aircraft performs versus our models and our analysis,” Davis said. “From there, we’ll understand what we need to do next.”

The company says it expects to be working on developing an FAA-certified aircraft through 2025 followed by a year or two of flight testing before it can deliver Alices to customers. Eviation is currently targeting entering the Alice into service by 2027.

Three different versions of the Alice are in protoype stages: a “commuter” variant, an executive version, and one specialized for cargo. The commuter configuration holds nine passengers and two pilots, as well as 850 pounds of cargo. The executive design has six passenger seats for a more spacious flight, and the cargo plane holds 450 cubic feet of volume.

But the Alice’s journey toward take-off has not been without issue. Plagued with delays, the Alice was originally expected to fly in 2021. Eviation faced executive turnover and a series of weather issues that hindered testing progress, pushing back take-off dates and announced fleet launches by years. Commuter airline CapeAir expected to put a fleet into service by 2023, serving routes across Boston and Cape Cod, but the purchased Alices have faced delay. DHL and Miami-based air charter company GlobalX have also announced plans to buy the plane.