Baptized Alice, the Eviation Aircraft company’s plane has the particularity of being 100% electric. Equipped with 3600 kilograms of battery, the device managed to take to the air for eight minutes on September 27th. During this maiden flight, Gregory Davis, CEO of the company announced that he had succeeded in “mark the history of aviation.”
It is the head of the company who was also at the controls of the plane during this short flight. While this is a big win for Eviation Aircraft, Alice’s flight is unlikely to change the face of aviation. Electric devices are being developed all over the planet, but none seem ready to transport many passengers over long distances.
One of the most advanced projects, that of the English engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, should make it possible to transport ten people in the air. Far from the capabilities of the A350s and Boeing 777s that populate the skies. With a project like Alice, the company Eviation Aircraft does not seek to compete with these two giants either.
Electric planes are today technologically speaking unable to fly long distances. The level of range of these planes does not allow them to carry several dozen passengers. These devices are therefore likely to be limited to very short distance connections (between two islands for example).
Batteries: the sinews of war
The biggest challenge in electric aviation is undoubtedly the batteries. For the moment they are too heavy to allow aircraft to fly with many passengers and they are sorely lacking in power which prevents these same aircraft from making long flights.
We must therefore succeed in reinventing electric batteries to make them more powerful, but also lighter. Thus they will be able to supply planes carrying many passengers for longer, which will offer a real fallback solution for people who wish to travel without damaging the planet with conventional planes, which are much more polluting.
Today, our all-electric Alice aircraft electrified the skies and embarked on an unforgettable world’s first flight. See Alice make history in the video clip below. We’re honored to celebrate this groundbreaking leap towards a more #sustainable future.#electricaviation pic.twitter.com/Q9dFoTPyiB
—Eviation Aircraft (@EviationAero) September 27, 2022
Electric plane does not mean ecological
Although electric, these new planes will also have a blow for the environment. The creation of all the materials necessary for their construction, in particular the batteries, has a major impact on the planet. Electric aviation engineers must therefore find a solution to produce lighter, more powerful batteries, while monitoring the use and extraction of “rare earths”.
These minerals are now a disaster for the environment. Used in the batteries of our telephones, cars and therefore planes, they are recovered from mines in China, Congo or Chile. In this South American country, intense lithium mining has caused several droughts in the north of the country. According to (very vague) estimates by the American Congress, it would take between 41,000 and 1.9 million liters of water to extract one ton of lithium.