AAM CEO Spotlight: Gregory Davis, Eviation
Based out of Arlington, Washington, Eviation is a startup seeking to develop and certify an all-electric commuter aircraft. Powered by two 650-kw magni650 engines from MagniX, the Eviation Alice will be capable of carrying nine passengers and two crewmembers, or 2,500 lb. of cargo, up to 250 nm at service entry. In a recent conversation with the AAM Report, Eviation CEO Gregory Davis discussed the company’s development progress and future plans. An abridged transcript follows:
AAM Report: Eviation recently pushed back its targeted entry-into-service date from 2024 to 2027. What was the reasoning?
It’s going to take us until 2027 to actually industrialize and commercialize the product so that it’s ready to enter service. We’ve taken a serious look at it from the battery technology standpoint and from the aircraft standpoint, and we’re just being realistic in terms of how long that process is going to take. Now, we’re already well into that process, and that’s why we’re able to firmly commit to 2027. We’ve obviously gone through quite a lot of technological development and regulatory involvement with the FAA to be able to get our flight permit. So, we have a lot of momentum that is already built up in terms of what we’re doing, but we want to be open with the marketplace; this is the process, and we’re sticking to it.
The prototype Alice made its first flight in September. What comes next?
We’re following the same certification process that any Part 23 airplane would follow. So, we’ve got our technology demonstrator aircraft and we’ve shown that the technology works. We’re going to take that now and go through the industrialization process and look at how best to manufacture it at volume. And with the certification program, the steps are just what you’d expect from a regular airplane program: finalize the design for the industrialized aircraft, take it to the regulator, get it certified through a flight test program and start producing once we get our production certificate. Those are the steps we’re working through now.
How will you get the Alice’s operating costs low enough to be commercially viable with just nine paying passengers?
There are various factors that compound to make the aircraft’s operating costs very attractive. Under part 135 rules in the U.S. and equivalent rules in Europe, you can have nine paying passengers with a single pilot on board. So your operating economics are greatly improved, because you can cut your pilot costs in half. There’s also the electric motors. They have only one moving part and there’s no hot section, so it’s a different order of magnitude in terms of maintaining your motor versus maintaining an engine. And of course, the biggest operating cost is fuel, and the cost of electricity derived from the electrical grid is maybe around a third the cost of jet fuel.
What do you think about the challenge associated with building out ground-charging infrastructure?
You have to put it into perspective. Let’s look at the United States. We’re in the middle of industrializing the charging network for the entire automotive network. That’s millions of miles of road. Compare that to just around 5,000 airports in the U.S. Moreover, as these aircraft enter into service, they’re going to be flying point-to-point on existing routes. So, they’ll just need to start with two, three or four chargers at each airport to actually begin introducing the aircraft. Basically, we think the actual challenge of electrifying the airport network compared to the challenge of electrifying the road network is going to be insignificant.
Are you planning a future stretched version of the Alice?
Obviously, we’re going to take advantage of the battery technology as it evolves. The airplane is being designed from the beginning so that we can change the energy storage system as the battery technology advances. What you’re going to see is a next generation of the Alice a few years after the first that has longer range and maybe a little bit more speed, and those types of incremental evolutions of the product are what you can expect to follow. Now, in terms of evolving the actual type of the aircraft, I’ll just say: watch us.