Eviation has tweaked the design of its Alice electric aircraft and intends to fly the model in 2021 despite a battery fire that damaged a prototype early this year.
“We expect to see the Alice in flight…” in 2021, the Israeli aircraft developer’s chief executive Omer Bar-Yohay said on 15 December. He adds that certification could come in the second half of 2023.
The company has made “a few minor modifications” to its design. As a result, the latest prototype is “slightly different than what you’ve seen at the Paris air show”, he adds.
FlightGlobal understands that one of the significant changes may relate to the relocation of the electric motors, particularly those on the wing-tips.
Modifications may suggest that the previous iteration of the Alice design was more intended as a proof-of-concept article than an actual test aircraft.
Bar-Yohay spoke during Aero Montreal’s International Aerospace Innovation Forum. He did not elaborate on the modifications, however.
As described until now by Eviation, Alice would have three propellers – two on the wingtips and one at the tail. It would be powered by a 900kWh lithium-battery system weighing 3,600kg (7,940lb), carry up to nine passengers and two pilots, have 540nm (1,000km) range and speed of 240kt (445km/h).
Bar-Yohay insists development work on the aircraft “never stopped”.
Eviation has said little about its progress with the programme since an Alice prototype caught fire in January. The incident occurred while the aircraft was on the ground at Prescott Regional airport in Arizona, where Eviation had been testing the prototype.
Fire reports from the Prescott government say the blaze occurred after hours of powerplant testing, and it forced three people aboard the aircraft to evacuate.
A separate report from the US Federal Aviation Administration said of the incident: “A lithium battery used to power an experimental aircraft exploded at Prescott airport.”
Bar-Yohay expressed only optimism on 15 December. He says companies like his can piggyback on electric technology developed and advanced by the automobile industry, then improve those technologies, taking them to “aviation standards”.
Aircraft like Alice use similar battery cells as used in the auto industry, he adds.