Electric planes are trying to convince a skeptical public


Eviation has launched Alice, a battery-powered nine-seat aircraft, scheduled for its maiden flight later this year, while Airbus and equipment makers Safran and Daher presented a model of its future. EcoPulse, which has a fuel tank and batteries.

The debut in the electricity sector comes as European finance ministers are to discuss ending tax breaks for kerosene this week to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Unlike cars, electric airplanes need to lift their power packets – which limits power to small planes on shorter routes.

"The impact of battery weight is a much bigger problem for us," said St├ęphane Cueille, head of research, technology and innovation at Safran.

The EcoPulse engine powers a central propeller and a generator to recharge the batteries and power additional electric propellers distributed along the span, resulting in fuel economy of 20% to 40% several hundred kilometers.

While the French plane is still on the drawing board, Alice's outlines are visible on Bourget Lane. Eviation is aiming for American certification in 2022.


With a single load, Alice can travel 1,046 km to 10,000 feet at a cruising speed of 276 km / h. Cape Air, a Massachusetts-based regional carrier, has decided to add more than a dozen of these $ 4 million planes to its fleet, Eviation said at the show.

The aircraft, with a flat profile and wingtip propellers, was designed as an electric plane from scratch, said Omer Bar-Yohay, founder and director of Eviation.

"It's basically a huge battery with a painted plane," he told reporters.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce said on Tuesday it had bought the electric aerospace division of German group Siemens, one of Alice's suppliers.

Engineers envision a brighter future for hybrid vehicles, which can combine lighter, more compact jet engines with electric thrust during takeoff and rise to 30% fuel economy.

UBS estimates that by 2040 demand for green technologies for aviation will increase to $ 178 billion as they become more common.

Airbus is also studying hybrid electric technology for future generations of aircraft. Commercial aviation carbon emissions represent about 2.5% of the global total, but should increase in line with the growth of the emerging middle classes, particularly in Asia.

To counteract its impact, the industry introduces the CORSIA program, which requires airlines to fund reductions in atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide elsewhere, offsetting the growth of their emissions pending hybrid aircraft and alternative fuels.

Reconciling airlines' growth ambitions with the promised 50% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels will not be easy. "We still do not know how it will be," said Greg Hyslop, chief technology officer at Boeing.

In any case, the leaders of the aeronautics insist that the answer can not be to reduce the number of flights. "We need to make aviation grow and be sustainable," Paul Stein, technical director of Rolls-Royce, told a panel discussion.

(Dominique Rodriguez for the French service, edited by Cyril Altmeyer)

by Laurence Frost and Alistair Smout


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