Electric planes have gone from April Fools joke to reality in two years

Posted: June 25, 2017 by oldbrew in innovation, Travel

Image credit: Eviation

No details of costs in this IB Times report, but Eviation claims that its electric aircraft is made possible by a new aluminum air battery.

As electric cars slowly become commonplace in towns and cities, electric planes are slowly edging their way out of science fiction and into the real world.

At the International Paris Air Show, Israel-based Eviation Aircraft revealed the first prototype of its all-electric airplane, called the Alice Commuter, which is claimed to have a range of up to 600 miles at almost 280mph.

If Eviation can stick to that timeline then the progress in electronic aviation is nothing short of staggering. Just two years ago, Icelandic airline Wow Air ran an April Fool’s day joke about it launching an all-electric.

More than just an attractive computer render and an impressive claimed range, Eviation says it is currently conducting test flights and could work to gain certification from the aviation authorities as soon as 2018. It also hopes to begin work on a commercial version of the aircraft that same year.

The plane is designed to cruise at 10,000 feet, a third of that of full-size commercial airliners, and is powered by a 980kWh battery pack, which is roughly ten times larger than those carried by the most powerful Tesla cars. The Alice is 12 metres long, has a wingspan of 13.5m and weighs 5,900kg.

The Eviation Alice takes off and lands on runways like a conventional plane. So-called ‘flying cars’ designed by Uber and other startups like China-based Ehang use VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) like a helicopter.

The plane designed by Eviation can accommodate two members of crew and six to nine passengers.

Full report: Electric planes have gone from April Fools joke to reality in two years | IB Times

  1. Alan Poirier says:

    Is the company looking for financial backers? This seems just a little too good to be true. LOL

  2. oldbrew says:

    Some blurb about the battery supplier…

    Phinergy offers aluminum as a new source of clean energy.

    Phinergy’s aluminum-air technology enables to store, transport and discharge clean energy around the world.

    Phinergy’s aluminium-air systems produce energy by combining aluminium, oxygen, and water. Oxygen is a key reactant releasing energy from metal. Unlike conventional batteries that carry oxygen within a heavy electrode, metal-air energy systems freely breathe oxygen from ambient air, making the systems significantly lighter.

    Phinergy’s air-electrode technology has enabled it to master the metal-air reaction process and develop an aluminium-air system with a lifespan of thousands of working hours, relieving the main constraints of electric transportation and clean distributed generation.


    Passenger cars can now run with zero emission while not compromising convenience. Phinergy powered cars offer a similar range to gas powered cars, and they only take five minutes to reload.

    – – –
    Wikipedia – ‘an electric vehicle with aluminium batteries has the potential for up to eight times the range of a lithium-ion battery with a significantly lower total weight’

    – – –
    One of the snags with these batteries is that the aluminium anodes need to be frequently replaced, at least in earlier versions, as Wikipedia explains…


  3. Bloke down the pub says:

    One of the snags with these batteries is that the aluminium anodes need to be frequently replaced, at least in earlier versions, as Wikipedia explains… Which would seem to negate any of the claimed environmental benefits Oldbrew.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Bloke – more from Wikipedia:

    ‘Aluminium–air batteries are primary cells, i.e., non-rechargeable. Once the aluminium anode is consumed by its reaction with atmospheric oxygen at a cathode immersed in a water-based electrolyte to form hydrated aluminium oxide, the battery will no longer produce electricity. However, it is possible to mechanically recharge the battery with new aluminium anodes made from recycling the hydrated aluminium oxide. Such recycling would be essential if aluminium–air batteries are to be widely adopted.’

    Whether tech solutions will be good enough, remains to be seen.

  5. John Silver says:

    It’s not aluminium but a special aluminium alloy.
    The electrodes have to be replaced after use in the existing alu-air batteries.

  6. John Silver says:

    The cost for the process is probably irrelevant for the virtue signalling billionaires, this luxury jet replacements is targeted towards.

  7. Dave Ward says:

    I hope the poor bastard flying it never suffers a motor malfunction at (or just after) take off. What in gods name were they thinking when locating the propulsion units at the very end of the wings???

    As for trying to land it in a stiff and gusty crosswind, with extremely limited prop clearance…

  8. Gamecock says:

    Doesn’t look like there isn’t room to stand up in that plane.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Gamecock – it will only be doing short trips, and nowhere to walk to anyway 😉

  10. USteiner says:

    So, it is NOT a rechargeable battery. You refuel by replacing the anode. And then you recycle the used-up anode, and redistribute the new anodes. Therefore the recycling process plus distribution is where the primary energy is consumed. Begs the question: what is the efficiency of that process?

    It is not unlike a hydrogen fuel cell: the energy goes into making the hydrogen and transporting it.

    But hasn’t there been an experiment in Germany, in Bremen I believe, where postal cars were equipped with non-rechargeable Lithium primary batteries. It had been given up soon after. I don’t recall, if a reason was for ending was given and what it was.

  11. USteiner says:

    Correction: it wasn’t Lithium-Air but Zinc-Air batteries. They do have a high energy density indeed, which make them preferred batteries in e.g. medical hearing aids.

    Here is someone claiming to have been the project manager of that experiment, who said that it worked well but recycling had been the problem:

    In a youtube video the technology and the recycling is explained further, and it is commented: recycling is far too expensive for a commercial application, even for a postal service with wide and consistent demand:

    At the end it is like with almost all green technologies: they can be made to work, but make no sense neither technically nor economically

  12. Curious George says:

    The reliability of a new technology is tested more rigorously in an aircraft than in a car, where a problem would not result in a crash landing.

  13. M Simon says:

    Where ever you plan to fly – there will need to be a battery waiting if you plan to take off again.

    Logistics will be a killer. At least to start.

  14. Jim says:

    I seem to remember, from the 60-70 era, a hybrid, something like a jet turbine powering a large battery, and running electric enclosed fans for powering the craft. Now they have more fuel efficient jet engines, but no generators and super cool looking passenger jets, but no ideas?

  15. daveburton says:

    The most fundamental problem is that I don’t believe they can get the energy density of their batteries to approach that of avgas.

    That doesn’t mean electric motors are never useful on an airplane. Burt Rutan’s amphibious SkiGull [2] has a pair of supplemental 12hp electric motors which assist with docking and takeoff, and which can enable the plane to fly about eight miles in the event of a main engine failure. Just as a hybrid Prius is more practical than an all-electric car, Burt’s approach seems much more practical than Eviation’s all-electric airplane.

  16. Bob Greene says:

    Aluminum as a fuel. No mention of the cost, or source, of the electricity required to regenerate the aluminum.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    I evaluated alumunim air UPS systems for computer centers some many years past.

    They are great for that standby use. You can go decades without maintenance… as long as you don’t use it. Since an emergency power supply is rarely used, that is a feature. Other batteries, like lead-acid, need replacing every few years.

    The problem was that any use which introduced the air component caused decay of the aluminum. Fine if you used it all, not so good if you took a 10 minute outage… and then needed a new chunk of aluminum…

    Basically, this is just using aluminum as fuel. An expensive fuel, replaced as a large chunk…

    So what happens when you fly only 250 miles on the weekend? Do you buy 600 miles worth of new aluminum fuel? Cost/mile will be high… or fly 300 miles during the next week? Or 6 month later find out how much of the “unused” 350 miles has corroded away in the reaction cell on standby?

    One hopes they have found a more modular fuel loading than the systems I looked at…

    I’d not buy one as long as kerosene turbines exist…

  18. oldbrew says:

    From the earlier Wiki quote:

    ‘it is possible to mechanically recharge the battery with new aluminium anodes made from recycling the hydrated aluminium oxide. Such recycling would be essential if aluminium–air batteries are to be widely adopted.’

  19. […] via Electric planes have gone from April Fools joke to reality in two years — Tallbloke’s Talksh… […]

  20. spetzer86 says:

    Don’t planes have to fly with a 45 minute “orbit” allowance for waiting / diverting to another airport? At 280mph, it has about a two hour total flight time. So that lets it get about 300ish miles on a charge?

  21. daveburton says:

    Putting the props on the wingtips like that seems crazy, too. I guess those guys have never been on a flight that got caught in someone’s jet wash on takeoff, and rocked wildly from side-to-side just as it left the ground.

    I have experienced that, once, on a commercial commuter flight. It was a memorable experience.

    That’s when I found out that the guy I was traveling with was Catholic, because he was crossing himself at a furious rate! 🙂

    If that plane had had props out on the wingtips, I’d not be smiling about it, now.

  22. oldbrew says:

    At a guess I doubt they would let these small planes use the same runway as commercial jets, or any jets.

  23. […] via Electric planes have gone from April Fools joke to reality in two years — Tallbloke’s Talksh… […]

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