The fledgling electric aviation sector received another major vote of confidence this week, after DHL Express announced it has placed an order for 12 fully electric cargo planes.
The global logistics giant confirmed it has teamed up with Seattle-based electric aircraft developer Eviation to support the roll out of its Alice eCargo fully electric planes.
The company said the order marked the first step in its plans to set up "an unparalleled electric Express network and make a pioneering step into a sustainable aviation future."
Eviation is one of a growing number of startups and aviation giants exploring how battery or hydrogen fuel cell technologies could be harnessed to enable zero emission short haul flights.
The company said its Alice model is on track to undertake its first flight later this year, with a view to delivering on its order from DHL Express in 2024.
The plane is designed to be flown by a single pilot and carry up to 2,645 pounds. Eviation said it would require 30 minutes or less to charge per flight hour and have a maximum range of up to 506 miles, making it a viable alternative for routes currently serviced by piston and turbine aircraft.
As with electric cars, the use of advanced electric motors is expected to result in increased reliability and reduced maintenance costs, while operating software is designed to constantly monitor flight performance to ensure optimal efficiency.
"We firmly believe in a future with zero-emission logistics," said John Pearson, CEO of DHL Express. "Therefore, our investments always follow the objective of improving our carbon footprint. On our way to clean logistics operations, the electrification of every transport mode plays a crucial role and will significantly contribute to our overall sustainability goal of zero emissions."
He added that the company had found "the perfect partner with Eviation as they share our purpose, and together we will take off into a new era of sustainable aviation."
His comments were echoed by Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay, who said the order represented a major vote of confidence in the nascent electric aviation sector.
We firmly believe in a future with zero-emission logistics.
"From day one, we set an audacious goal to transform the aviation industry and create a new era with electric aircraft," he said. "Partnering with companies like DHL who are the leaders in sustainable e-cargo transportation is a testament that the electric era is upon us. This announcement is a significant milestone on our quest to transform the future of flight across the globe."
DHL Express said the aircraft was ideal for feeder routes and would require limited investment in supporting infrastructure. It added that the Alice could be charged while loading and unloading operations occur, ensuring quick turnaround times that maintain DHL Express' tight schedules.
Eviation executive chairman Roei Ganzarski stressed that the technology could provide a competitive advantage for logistics firms. "The next time you order an on-demand package, check if it was delivered with a zero-emission aircraft like DHL will be doing," he said. "With on-demand shopping and deliveries on a constant rise, Alice is enabling DHL to establish a clean, quiet and low-cost operation that will open up greater opportunities for more communities."