Given the advantages of going electric, many airplane makers, including Airbus and Boeing, are also heavily investing into electric and hybrid aircraft technologies.
Eviation Aircraft Ltd, an Israeli electric airplane startup, is aiming to fly passengers on its 9-seat commuter aircraft by 2021, said Omer Bar-Yoha, CEO of the firm.
Eviation Aircraft is in the process of signing up South Korean battery maker Kokam as its supplier.
The venture capital startup, is one of a number of companies who are looking to develop small electric aircrafts that would have low operating costs, a low carbon footprint and be quieter than their conventionally cousins.
Incidentally, Airbus SE, Uber Technologies Inc and Boeing Co are also investigating electric and hybrid aircraft technology.
Bar-Yohay stated, his firm prefers to deal with Kokam since as a small battery maker, Kokam would be in a position to customize battery specifications to its requirements.
“If I would go today to Samsung or Panasonic or LG Chem or Tesla for that matter and say I need a different cell size, they will probably laugh because the number of cells we are going to buy is not significant enough to start the design process,” said Bar-Yohay.
Eviation Aircraft’s planes will feature 9,400 batteries spread across the airplane’s ceiling, floor and wings and will weigh 3.8 tonnes, i.e. 60% of the maximum takeoff weight.
Improvement in battery technology is crucial for electric airplanes which is why, at least initially, smaller aircrafts will first be electrified before larger commercial jets.
Although current battery technology is less energy efficient per kilogram than jet fuel, the gap is reducing pretty fast every year, thus allowing electric cars and plaines to have longer ranges than was previously envisaged.
Eviation’s “Alice” airplane, which will cost $2 million plus, is expected to have a range of up to 650 nautical miles (1200 kilometers), compared to 1000 nautical miles for a similar-sized conventional Cessna Caravan. It will be more fuel efficient and will have reduced maintenance costs, said Bar-Yohay.
It would not be surprising to see the Alice flying for the first time by the end of 2018, with the first public display scheduled for launch at the Paris Airshow in mid-2019, said Bar-Yohay.
Commercial production would require that Eviation Aircraft boosts if capital by at least $100 million.