Eviation Alice (Electric Regional Airliner)

H_K

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What about hydrogen fuel cell aircraft like Zero Avia? This seems to be more flexible than battery-electric designs... though there are still big challenges.

 

coanda

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If you can get the current draw from a fuel cell then its all good.

There are strategies around different energy sources for high discharge and low discharge phases of flight (e.g. batteries and fuel cells respectively). The fuel cells can be sized to run the motors and recharge the high discharge batteries during cruise and descent.

There are battery switching boards so that people like myself, designing and building drones, can specify high and low C batteries for different phases of flight. This is essentially no different.
 

Machdiamond

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Granted a conversion of an existing aircraft will never be as efficient as a clean sheet design, but it will be cheaper to develop and easier to certify.

Converting an existing aircraft from IC engines to electric just doesn’t work, other than to give those involved some real learning, demonstrate a flight around the circuit and generate publicity....deceiving investors seems to be poplar within e-aviation.

The power source conversion runs so deep into architecture there’s no saving on certification. Take for instance the mass which with E-Aeroplane doesn’t change during the flight. This means all the structure normally designed by the landing mass loads is no longer strong enough, hence need re-enforcement and likewise re-certification. Existing IC configurations are aerodynamic optimised for a cruise speed and altitude which is appropriate for the compression ratio of the engines. Imposing this onto an electric based aeroplane is massively penalising and shows up as an impractical range which is useless to any customer..... again apart from those seeking publicity.

With the project I was involved in, it was surprising how even seasoned engineers struggled with the grim reality of how little stored energy was available. Equally it also highlighted just how inefficient existing IC driven aircraft really are. In essence making a little go a long way demands deep, from first principles optimisation which just isn’t possible with the conversion of an existing design.
Any serious electric aeroplane will be from a clean sheet.
I agree with you that a serious electric airplane needs to be clean sheet.

However I read very often about this landing weight issue, as you point out. In reality, it is not an issue at all unless you only look at very long range aircraft. Most short and medium range aircraft are certified with a landing weight that is very close to the takeoff weight.

Specifically, the Tecnam P2012 is certified with a maximum landing weight equal to its maximum takeoff weight (3600 kg).

Another example is the ATR-42 at 18300 kg maximum landing weight versus 18600 kg maximum takeoff, essentially it's the same as well.

So there are many reasons why electric aircraft are a though nut to crack, but this landing weight deal really is a red herring.

The Tecnam approach is certainly suboptimal, but if you accept a limited payload and a very short range niche market for short hops to islands or across rivers, it definitely gets the job done and is quite inexpensive to bring to market.

I would also add that deceiving investors, in some cases intentionally but generally by honest technical ignorance, is pretty much the norm in the e-aviation marketspace but in my book Tecnam is definitely not one of them.
 
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aonestudio

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3 JUN 2021

GKN Aerospace has reached an important milestone in its collaboration with Eviation (USA) by delivering the first fully-integrated wings, empennage and EWIS for the Alice all-electric aircraft. The wings and empennage feature advanced composite technology and are the first delivered by GKN Aerospace as fully integrated structures.

 

alberchico

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I guess we'll soon know soon whether the aircraft has undergone major design changes like the Flight Global article hinted at. Fun fact, Eviation and the engine maker they plan on using, Magnix, have the same owner.
 

alberchico

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According to a recent article in Aviation Week, the company has updated the specifications surrounding the aircraft. It will now have pressurization, a 220 kt cruise speed, 32,000 ceiling and a 440 nm range with a 45 minute reserve. It's original range was supposed to 740 nm. It's takeoff gross weight has increased to 14,700 lb up from 14,000 lb, and the wingspan has increased from 53ft all the way up to 59 ft. But the battery weight remains the same at a whopping 8,200 lb with 820 kWh of energy capacity, using lithium nickel cobalt oxide cells. The factory will be located in Washington, close to the headquarters of MagniX, the engine maker they will be using.

They also claim the aircraft is still projected to enter service by 2024, but I just don't see that happening. The Tecnam P2012 was a simple all metal airframe with proven engines and avionics, fixed landing gear as well as no pressurization and it took an experienced company like Tecnam almost 4 years to gain certification.

I understand these start up companies are under pressure to present investors with rosy projections regarding the timetables of their projects, but there is a fine line between being optimistic and flat out lying. I have seen too many start up companies with very ambitious projects present timetables that are frankly preposterous.
 
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alberchico

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I'm still shocked that the initial concept they unveiled was so utterly impractical. When this aircraft was in the early design stage did nobody point out all the issues that the unconventional layout they chose created ? Did they not understand it would be a nightmare trying to get that design certified ? If this company had chosen a more practical traditional layout back in 2014 when this project was launched they could have been well on their way to certification by now. The only thing that appears to be reused from the original design is the forward fuselage, everything else seems to have been completely discarded. What a colossal waste of time and resources. I hope at least this version has a conventional tricycle landing gear. The good news is that there appears to be 2 prototypes under construction, that will at least speed up the test program.
 
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Zoo Tycoon

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I agree, having just seen these guys bonfire off a big percentage of the money invested to date, why is anyone giving them the time of day? How can anyone trust their technical judgment?

We’re living in very odd times.

Even the new configurations range and performance figures still look fantasy for today’s battery technology. I suspect they’re banking on a very high degrees of laminar flow to jack up the L/D. Delivering a commercial service, that is selling pax destinations which requires the maintenance of a high degree of laminar flow throughout the flight, wow that’ll stretch the certification thinking. I’ve watched clean, highly laminar wings, with how very high LD decline in real time as they pick up bugs, and the rate varies considerably from flight to flight. By way of example, all clean at start of flight the electrikcy witchcraft was telling me I was at 42:1 and 2-3 hours later it was 34:1.

Also look at the volume coefficients used on the tail plane (how small/little area). They’re really pushing the boundaries and imply a reliance on artificial stability and never having to shut down a single engine. It’s one thing saying “well our electric motors are so reliable we don’t need to consider a failure” but what happens when a tire fails and the debris knocks off a propeller blade?
 
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AeroFranz

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The problem with impractical designs espoused by startups is that you need to be better by leaps and bounds than the competition to find investors. So you must find (or convince yourself you've found) some first order breakthrough that often involves unusual configurations. But typically there's a reason those configurations are not mainstream...notice that a lot of what is being proposed (like laminar flow) has been known for a long time but not taken advantage of for very practical reasons.
Regarding investors, and the above technical considerations aside, you actually HAVE TO look different to be 'exciting'.
At least that's how i rationalize what i see coming out of these companies.
 

alberchico

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Based on the video it seems that there is only one prototype so far, I mistakenly thought there were two not realizing it was the same aircraft in two separate pieces before being assembled. :oops:

I also wonder if the battery packs can be swapped out for a new one if in 10 years better tech becomes available to improve range. Making this aircraft future-proof in terms of accommodating new batteries could be what makes it a success.

Below are the confirmed specs:

 
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Took the liberty to add the picture:

Eviation-alice-electric-aircraf-spec-sheet.jpg
 

coanda

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Better, might actually work. I know they've shipped the first wing set from GKN - I presume that this is for the original wacky design.

Wing loading still too high by the looks of it - they seem to be betting on the fuselage to work.
 

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Don't forget that the fuselage is mostly an empty shell. There are no fuel lines, no hydraulycs and it has the benefits of being a modern design with a composite structure.
Of concerns also is the very small tailplane (see the front fuselage large surface ahead of the CG) and the claimed 32000ft ceiling... Is this thing really pressurized?
 

coanda

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I'm still shocked that the initial concept they unveiled was so utterly impractical. When this aircraft was in the early design stage did nobody point out all the issues that the unconventional layout they chose created ? Did they not understand it would be a nightmare trying to get that design certified ? If this company had chosen a more practical traditional layout back in 2014 when this project was launched they could have been well on their way to certification by now. The only thing that appears to be reused from the original design is the forward fuselage, everything else seems to have been completely discarded. What a colossal waste of time and resources. I hope at least this version has a conventional tricycle landing gear. The good news is that there appears to be 2 prototypes under construction, that will at least speed up the test program.
Bet the investors loved it ;)
 

coanda

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Don't forget that the fuselage is mostly an empty shell. There are no fuel lines, no hydraulycs and it has the benefits of being a modern design with a composite structure.
Of concerns also is the very small tailplane (see the front fuselage large surface ahead of the CG) and the claimed 32000ft ceiling... Is this thing really pressurized?
No fuel lines and hydraulics is kind of simplifying things, but those things are replaced with maybe 1kv capable electrical equipment
 

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If they are planning a full-authority EM fly-by-wire actuation system for a manned, passenger carrying aircraft, this will be quite an FAA certification process. I do not know of any other manned aircraft with a full EM flight control actuation suite. The B787 uses EM actuators, but only for ground spoilers. Have to think of full TED/TEU failure modes (takeoff/approach/landing) including rapid response and surface trimming for such failures, this includes redundancy as well.
 

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Agreed, the systems I’m aware of are more electrically powered, self contained mini hydraulic systems. Pure electro mechanical has some challenging failure modes as they’re far more susceptible to jam solid….. which if not disconnected, will jam the surface…. Disconnection systems have their terrifying failures namely operating when not intended.
 
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Hydroman

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Most aircraft (non-fighter-type) flight surfaces stay around the trailed, null region with very little surface activity, the same goes for UAVs except for general maneuvers during flight. It would be interesting to know how many incidents have occurred related to UAV platforms which have had a jammed flight surface EMA event during any portion of a flight/mission. If the gear train or ballscrew has jammed the only way to recover is to have rapid FCS response and ample trim authority. Also, FCAS EM actuators have evolved in reliability, the military would or could accept some risk but commercial aviation (and the FAA/EAA) wourld required pretty exhausting simulation, analysis and lab testing, iron bird labs would get serious workouts.
 

alberchico

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The company has released a more detailed image of what the final version will look like.

Edit: We also get a good look at the charger port in this second pic:
 

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alberchico

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Wow. I did not see this coming. I don't know just how useful an electric freighter is, but I hope it succeeds. If this aircraft is quiet enough to be allowed into noise restricted airports past curfew time, that could give it a competitive advantage.
 

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AeroFranz

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I suspect this is just a PR move by DHL to show they're being environmentally responsible. Same thing with United 'pre-ordering' (whatever that means) 200 aircraft from Beta (or was it Archer?). This way they can put some sort of statement in their quarterly reports and never have to do anything about it because they don't actually have firm commitments and 90% of the time these projects fail before they get anywhere close to production anyway.
Sorry, that's just my 2 cents on BS announcements that have little to do with engineering or reality.
Renderings are cheap. If they show me a CAD model used in a FEM to size a big-A$$ door on the side that would actually be used to make the vehicle even remotely useful for loading-unloading packages, then i may believe it. Or a mockup; anything that you would actually need to do if you were actually serious about it.
 

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Or it could be the market investing where they see a future...
Could be. I admit to being biased to poo-poo everything a startup's marketing departments does. :p

Well... aviation has pretty bad odds - even for established companies - What percentage of conceptual projects end up being serious design studies? What percentage of those end up as hardware? What percentage of those end up seeing serial production? What percentage of those end up seeing significant production?

So I don't find fault with your scepticism. I suspect that parcel/freight aviation is one area where we'll see higher efficiencies and novel designs eventually though - the amount of casualties from a crash is smaller (especially if unmanned) allowing lower liability for design risk, and airspeed isn't quite as important as reducing overall operating costs... there is quite a margin for improvement. Someone will succeed in doing it eventually.
 

AeroFranz

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Or it could be the market investing where they see a future...
Could be. I admit to being biased to poo-poo everything a startup's marketing departments does. :p

Well... aviation has pretty bad odds - even for established companies - What percentage of conceptual projects end up being serious design studies? What percentage of those end up as hardware? What percentage of those end up seeing serial production? What percentage of those end up seeing significant production?

So I don't find fault with your scepticism. I suspect that parcel/freight aviation is one area where we'll see higher efficiencies and novel designs eventually though - the amount of casualties from a crash is smaller (especially if unmanned) allowing lower liability for design risk, and airspeed isn't quite as important as reducing overall operating costs... there is quite a margin for improvement. Someone will succeed in doing it eventually.
And i think you actually touched on something that I think will have a bigger impact for cargo operations than electrification, and that is removing the pilot from the cockpit. I have no illusion that it comes with all sorts of technical and even more so regulatory challenges, but it's pretty much established that un-manning or optionally-piloting is going to happen. Cargo aircraft being a prime candidate for early adoption.
[edited one word]
 

alberchico

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There's an article in this week's issue of Aviation Week that profiles the Bye Aerospace eFlyer 800, which is similar in size and layout to the Eviation Alice. The company is claiming that they can achieve an almost 30 db noise reduction over a similarly sized turboprop. If Eviation can achieve similar noise reductions, which would allow DHL to operate into noise restricted airfields that other cargo planes can't operate from, then they can carve out a profitable niche for themselves. But they really do need to develop a proper cargo door similar to what the PC-12 has. Heck, even for regular passenger operations I feel like a larger baggage door is required. Look at the massive door the Tecnam 2012 has for stowing cargo. ( shown below)

When I look at the Eviation project, it seems like they are building an aircraft more suited for the corporate market than for commuter flying. Think about it, do you really need expensive luxuries like pressurization or fly by wire controls on a 9 seat aircraft with such a short range? Can anyone really see a small cash strapped commuter airline going for this aircraft ?

I personally want these new designs to succeed, but when I think about their business plans and projected market, there are many doubts that begin to creep into my head.
 

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GTX

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And i think you actually touched on something that I think will have a bigger impact for cargo operations than electrification, and that is removing the pilot from the cockpit. I have no illusion that it comes with all sorts of technical and even more so regulatory challenges, but it's pretty much established that un-manning or optionally-piloting is going to happen. Cargo aircraft being a prime candidate for early adoption.
[edited one word]
I would agree and welcome it. Cargo aircraft are an especially smart area to start
 

alberchico

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H_K

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I suspect that parcel/freight aviation is one area where we'll see higher efficiencies and novel designs eventually though - the amount of casualties from a crash is smaller (especially if unmanned) allowing lower liability for design risk, and airspeed isn't quite as important as reducing overall operating costs... there is quite a margin for improvement. Someone will succeed in doing it eventually

Still begs the question of why anyone would invest marginal $$ on electric aircraft that have such a negligeable impact on CO2 emissions, aside from PR and greenwashing because it's "sexy".

There's already plenty of simple, proven things that these corporations could be investing in today, such as electrifying their vehicle fleets on the ground, buying clean energy from their utility suppliers, revamping their facilities & warehouses to be more energy efficient etc...
 

TomcatViP

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The next reach for aviation is in commuting ppl over short distance with an increased nbr of rotation. This would be catastrophic if not done through clean energy.
The priority given to E.V is hence well suited. But you are right that this must come as a system of systems.
 

H_K

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The next reach for aviation is in commuting ppl over short distance with an increased nbr of rotation. This would be catastrophic if not done through clean energy.
I would argue that self-driving cars will make commutes much more pleasurable (and productive) and decrease the importance of getting to your destination quickly. (Plus probably reducing accidents and improving rush hour traffic)

A bit like how lie-flat seats, laptop computers, and onboard wifi have made supersonic business travel less important...
 

GTX

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Still begs the question of why anyone would invest marginal $$ on electric aircraft that have such a negligeable impact on CO2 emissions, aside from PR and greenwashing because it's "sexy".
Aviation is seen as a major area needing work on the solution side.

Global-CO2-emissions-from-aviation.png
 

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