Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is to develop an all-electric aircraft, an initial prototype of which will fly in around three years' time.

Few details have been revealed about the project, but IAI says the new aircraft will have a maximum take-off weight of 4,530-6,800kg (10,000-15,000lb) – or about the size of a Beechcraft King Air 350.

Range will be about 500nm (926km), against 1,800nm for the King Air, and the aircraft will be used for inter-city operations.

"The rapid development of electric power sources is accelerating in the cellular worlds and electric vehicles, along with a significant improvement in the reliability and efficiency of electric motors, making the electric plane the next thing in the world of aviation," says Moshe Medina, vice-president and director of IAI's engineering and development division.

"There are quite a few technological challenges that must be dealt with during development and licensing, but IAI's many years of experience in these fields enable us to develop a kit that will successfully cope with the challenges and enable the construction of the most efficient aircraft of its kind in the world."

IAI will shortly complete the project's definition phase, he says, but the manufacturer intends to focus "where we identify the broadest business potential".

Initial development will be internally funded, although IAI "may partner with another company" to bring the aircraft to production, says Medina.

IAI is already testing different electric energy sources and related control systems.

In recent years, the Israeli firm has been investing heavily in research and development activities for electric propulsion systems, including engines and batteries.