Massachusetts-based regional airline Cape Air has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Eviation Aircraft covering the purchase of 75 all-electric Alice commuter aircraft, the companies said. The contract signing comes nine months after Cape Air chairman Dan Wolf told a gathering at the Vertical Flight Society’s Electric Aircraft Symposium that the Alice could enter service with his airline as early as 2023 on scheduled routes connecting Boston and the Massachusetts communities of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket as well as linking Nantucket with Hyannis. At that time Eviation and Cape Air ostensibly placed an order in 2019 for the nine-seat Alice, but terms remained undisclosed and Wolf expressed some ambivalence about the economic case.
“The first thing that Cape Air wants to do is introduce a new technology into a commercial environment that we know is successful,” he said at the time. “If the economics of this are what people think they are going to be, and I’m not convinced yet…there’s an entire panoply of communities [that could benefit].”
Asked about the distinction between the 2019 "order" at the Paris Air Show and the most recent LOI announcement, an Eviation spokesperson described the Paris agreement as "an optimistic outlook at what the future would bring.
"The technology has advanced since 2019, allowing Alice the opportunity to evolve," she added. "Today, Eviation has converted that optimism into reality."
Now the largest FAA Part 135 commuter carrier in the U.S. with 103 aircraft, the airline points to its experience with introducing new aircraft types to scheduled service as one reason it stands to make the economics work and the operational challenges surmountable. Cape Air 18 months ago debuted the gasoline-powered P2012 Traveller made by the Italian manufacturer Tecnam, with which it has collaborated on some 170 engine and aircraft modifications.
Tecnam is now working with Rolls-Royce to develop an all-electric development of the Traveller, called the P-Volt. The electric airplane's range would fall short of the piston-powered P2012s' reach, but Scandinavian regional carrier Wideroe plans to introduce it on short routes in Norway in 2026.
Following the unveiling of a revised design for the nine-passenger, fixed-wing Alice aircraft last year, Eviation projected that it would perform its first flight from the company’s new headquarters in Washington state by December, presumably in time for the completion of FAA type certification by 2024. After moving the first flight target to this past January, Eviation now projects it to happen this summer but has provided no explanation for the delay to the program.
The new design drawings revealed significant changes from an earlier prototype, with a new T-tail configuration replacing a distinctive V-shaped tail. Eviation relocated the nine-passenger Alice’s two MagniX Magni650 electric propulsion from the wingtips to a pylon mount at the rear of the fuselage. Aircraft specifications show a range of up to around 500 miles at speeds of just over 250 mph.