With electric cars already hitting the highways, a number of companies are racing to launch the first all-electric passenger airplane, among them Eviation Aircraft.
The Israeli company unveiled a prototype electric light aircraft at the Paris Air Show. The Alice Commuter plane will be all-electric, and at least initially serve as a commuter aircraft for wealthy travelers. It can carry up to nine passengers and two crew – and 3D printing is helping to get the project off the ground faster.
“In the next four years, Eviation aims to make regional air travel a cost-effective and clean option that rivals any existing form of transit today,” said Eviation founder and CEO, Omer Bar-Yohay. “With people working and commuting across greater distances than ever before, we believe the solution will bring mid-range cities like Seoul and Beijing, or London and Paris, closer together through all-electric air travel.”
Eviation is using Stratasys 3D printers to help develop the aircraft.
The company is leveraging the printers in its research and development processes, printing prototype parts for testing at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. According to Eviation, this accelerated the development process and enabled more innovative designs in addition to reducing costs.
The company printed wing-tip motors in just a few hours, which allowed them to conduct functional evaluations while waiting for the final motors to be manufactured. The company also 3D printed a composite lay-up tool that was used to create other complex, lightweight parts.
Our ability to create new iterations of designs with 3D printing and see how they perform in real-time is helping us reduce critical capital costs, even as we accelerate our rapid prototyping phase,” said Bar-Yohay. “The kind of highly iterative, in-house manufacturing process that Stratasys 3D printing has refined is crucial to the life of a company in the constantly changing, and highly competitive, transportation space.”
Eviation has yet to reveal how it will overcome some apparent design obstacles – such as how to handle the load of what will likely be a 10,000-pound battery pack – but the Alice is scheduled to begin flight testing in late 2018. Commercial availability is scheduled to follow in 2021.