Israeli-founded electric plane startup Eviation announced earlier this month that DHL is the first to order 12 fully electric Alice eCargo planes for parcels.
The US-based global manufacturer develops and manufactures electric aircraft to provide an efficient, affordable, and sustainable solution for people and goods.
The international courier and package delivery company said it aims to set up an “unparalleled” electric Express network, with planes being added to the firm’s current fleet of delivery vehicles and bikes.
While the Alice aircraft has yet to take its first flight—the electric plane company said it will happen later this year—Eviation indicates that it expects to deliver the aircraft to DHL Express in 2024.
Both DHL and Eviation said they were making “aviation history” with the news by taking a “pioneering step into a sustainable aviation future.”
“DHL is a leader in sustainable logistics with an extensive regional feeder network that aligns with Alice’s range and capability, so it was as practical of a deal for us as it was historic for aviation,” Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO of Eviation Aircraft, told NoCamels in an email from Eviation’s Seattle headquarters.
Since its founding in 1969, DHL has often been vocal about the use of transportation electrification as a means to contribute to a sustainability goal of zero emissions. In 2017, the company announced an ambitious plan to commit to the reduction of all logistics-related emissions to zero by the year 2050. The company’s investments have followed suit with an objective to improve the company’s carbon footprint, John Pearson, CEO of DHL Express, said in an announcement of the DHL-Eviation partnership.
For its part, Eviation Aircraft, a company founded in 2016 in Tel Aviv, has also been on a mission to make zero-emissions the norm with its battery-powered electric aircraft.
“The logistics industry, in particular, is moving toward more sustainable aviation practices, and Alice provides a breakthrough solution for carriers with regional aviation networks,” said Bar-Yohay. “As a leader in sustainable logistics with shared goals on zero-emission transportation, DHL is an ideal customer for the launch of our eCargo Alice. We are not disclosing any potential deals or customer information at this time.”
“Eviation is leading a cultural shift to zero-emission aviation,” he added. According to Bar-Yohay, the company wants to change the way people and goods travel regionally through sustainable aviation in a way that makes air travel fun, convenient, clean, efficient, and affordable.
“Current aviation remains highly inefficient, pollutant and expensive. The shift to electric aviation is vital for improving long-term sustainability,” he explains, “Alice dramatically lowers environmental impact in terms of noise and carbon emissions, while providing a superior flight experience at a significantly lower cost to the airline. That’s the true meaning of a sustainable narrative in our minds—a sustainable story that makes business sense.”
“My compliments to Eviation on the innovative development of the fully electric Alice aircraft,” said Travis Cobb, executive vice president of Global Network Operations and Aviation for DHL Express. “With Alice’s range and capacity, this is a fantastic sustainable solution for our global network. Our aspiration is to make a substantial contribution in reducing our carbon footprint, and these advancements in fleet and technology will go a long way in achieving further carbon reductions. For our customers and us, this is a very important step in our decarbonization journey and a step forward for the aviation industry as a whole.”
“With on-demand shopping and deliveries on a constant rise, Alice is enabling DHL to establish a clean, quiet, and low-cost operation that will open up greater opportunities for more communities, starting right here in the United States,” Eviation executive chairman Roei Ganzarski said in a statement.
Alice is for commuters and cargo
Alice can be flown by a single pilot and can carry 2,600 lbs (1,200 kg), according to Eviation Aircraft. It will require 30 minutes or less to charge per flight hour and have a maximum range of up to 440 nautical miles (815 km). Alice will operate in all environments currently serviced by piston and turbine aircraft. Its advanced electric motors have fewer moving parts to increase reliability and reduce maintenance costs. Its operating software constantly monitors flight performance to ensure optimal efficiency.
The first prototype for Alice debuted at the 53rd annual Paris Air Show in June 2019. Back then, the aircraft was envisioned as a nine-passenger, battery-powered commuter aircraft that would make regional trips cheaper than a train ticket and less harmful for the environment. An Uber in the sky, if you will.
At the time, Bar-Yohay said that Massachusetts-headquartered regional airline Cape Air would be the company’s first customer. Bloomberg reported that Eviation had signed on two more customers and secured 150 orders, though Bar-Yohay declined to name the American buyers.
Since then, the plane’s design has changed, as has the state of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Eviation Aircraft has not abandoned its idea for a passenger plane, even with the addition of a new version for DHL, said to be the first-ever cargo freighter.
“Eviation is focused on introducing Alice in both commuter and eCargo versions,” Bar-Yohay told NoCamels. “In fact, the eCargo version of Alice is identical to the commuter version except for the interior. The eCargo Alice is designed for rapid cargo loading and unloading for quick turns, equipped with forward and aft access doors and one continuous cargo bay with 450 cubic feet of cargo capacity—the highest cargo carrying capacity in its class. It also features hardpoints throughout the cabin to accommodate multiple cargo nets for flexible, secure containment zones of loose package cargo. A temperature-controlled cargo compartment ensures that temperature-sensitive goods stay safe in transit.”
“The majority of the flights in the US are less than 500 miles in range, which means that an aircraft like Alice can serve a large amount of demand for regional passengers, and commuter travel alike,” said Bar-Yohay. “We’re working to become the first-to-market manufacturer of an all-electric propulsion aircraft with Alice. This is a technological leap that promises to change passenger and cargo air travel for future generations.”
The article was originally published by NoCamels, a leading news website covering breakthrough innovation from Israel for a global audience.