ARLINGTON — Eviation Aircraft, the Arlington company that has built a fully electric commuter airplane, got a hefty boost this week when one of the nation’s largest commuter airlines, Cape Air, signed a letter of intent to buy 75 of the Eviation Alice model.
The nine-passenger airplane, which produces no carbon emissions, has been undergoing ground taxi tests since December. It is expected to take a maiden flight this year.
Cape Air, based in Hyannis, Massachusetts, operates more than 400 regional flights a day to nearly 40 cities in the Northeast, Midwest, Montana and the Caribbean.
Deploying a fleet of all-electric planes “will significantly reduce carbon emissions,” cut maintenance and operational costs and give passengers “a smoother and quieter flight experience,” Cape Air said in a news release.
“Cape Air remains committed to sustainability, growth, and innovation, and our partnership with Eviation allows for these commitments to become a reality,” said Linda Markham, the airline’s president and CEO. “Our customers will be at the forefront of aviation history and our communities will benefit from emission-free travel.”
Alice is designed to fly 500 miles on a single charge and has a top cruising speed of 287 mph. The plane will operate in all environments currently served by piston and turbine aircraft, Eviation says.
“We are proud to support Cape Air, a recognized leader in regional air travel, to chart a new path in delivering innovative solutions that benefit airline operators, passengers, communities and society,” Jessica Pruss, Eviation’s vice president of sales, said in a news release.
The aviation industry’s carbon footprint is cause for concern. It’s responsible for 9% of transportation emissions in the United States and 3% of the nation’s greenhouse gas production, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. All-electric and hybrid aircraft could help reduce environmental impact.
“Truly sustainable aviation not only reduces the impact of air travel on the environment but also makes business sense,” Pruss said.
About half of all scheduled commercial flights are 500 miles or less, according to OAG, an aviation and travel data firm.
“As an early supporter of all-electric air travel, we are dedicated to leading the industry toward a sustainable future,” said Dan Wolf, Cape Air’s board chairman. “Together with Eviation, we are creating the next generation of air travel, in which electric flight will be the industry standard.”
Two electric motors and an 8,200-pound lithium-ion battery are the power source for the plane.
Both companies are subsidiaries of the Clermont Group, a private investment firm based in Singapore.
In August, global package delivery firm DHL Express ordered 12 of the planes. Those models will be configured to carry cargo and have a payload capacity of 2,600 pounds.
Eviation occupies three hangars at Arlington Municipal Airport.
The company employs about 120 but expects to see those numbers rise if it obtains federal regulators’ approval for Alice to enter service.