- Venture capital-backed Eviation is developing a nine-seat electric aircraft.
- The firm sees regional travel as being under served by aviation.
- A prototype of its electric plane has been unveiled at the Paris Air Show.
PARIS — The Israeli start-up Eviation announced at the Paris Air Show that U.S regional airline Cape Air is to buy its electric aircraft.
Eviation is developing a nine-passenger aircraft designed to fly up to 650 miles at around 240 knots (276 miles per hour). A commercial jet would cruise around 500 miles per hour. The electric plane — called Alice with a prototype being unveiled at the show this week — is designed for the sort of distances usually conducted by train.
Cape Air is set to buy a "double-digit" number of the plane which has a list price of around $4 million each. It's expected that any customer would be able to negotiate a smaller figure.
The company's chief executive, Omer Bar-Yohay, told a press conference Tuesday that he expected to receive certification by late 2021, with deliveries predicted for 2022.
"This aircraft is not some future maybe. It is there, ready and waiting," he said.
Bar-Yohay cited the contributions from Honeywell who built the plane's controls as well as Siemens, and magniX who provided the electric motor and related functions.
Bar-Yohay said the plane would now travel to Arizona in the United States where it would be flight tested before being put forward for certification with the U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
The CEO added the plane should satisfy FAA concerns that it might create a backlog of training for pilots, as it was "probably one of the easiest planes to fly," adding "this is one of the specimens that the FAA wants to see happen."
The Eviation boss said that eventually, future planes would be built in the United States.
Most of Eviation's funding is from Clermont Group, the private investment fund of Singapore-based billionaire Richard Chandler. Clermont has given Eviation $76 million in exchange for a 70% stake in the company, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dated January 3.
In a in a letter to staff, Chandler said commercial-scale electric aircraft would "change the culture of air travel for future generations," and that the aerospace industry was entering a new era.
"45% of all flights are under 500 miles – approximately the distance from London to Zurich, or New York to Detroit. This puts almost half of all global flights within the range of an electric motor."
Clermont also owns and funds magniX, the firm that manufactures the three electric motors that provide the aircraft with roughly 900 kilowatts of power. Bar-Yohay claimed if there was a problem with the two wing engines, it could continue flying on the rear rotor only.
The CEO of magniX, Roei Ganzarski, also attended the launch, telling CNBC it was "exciting to see a dream come true."
Ganzarski said his engines would be split between new clean sheet aircraft such as the Eviation and retrofitting existing small aircraft.