Formula E's GEN3 meets DHL's world-first electric cargo plane

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Formula E's GEN3 meets DHL's world-first electric cargo plane

On our trip to the USA earlier this year, Formula E's GEN3 encountered Alice, DHL's groundbreaking world-first electric cargo plane which is designed to haul aviation into an era of sustainability and efficiency.

The Alice is a unique aircraft, designed and built by Seattle-based Eviation Aircraft - an Israeli-US company - capable of providing all-electric freight and passenger services with a single pilot, on trips up to 815km (440 miles).

They can each carry some 1,200kg in cargo at speeds approaching 500km/h and Alice takes half an hour to charge for every hour the plane spends in the air - DHL says this is ideal for its tight freight loading turnarounds with no time lost.

Eviation's magniX electric propulsion system is also quieter than a conventional turbine aircraft and, with fewer moving parts, will require less maintenance, meaning aircraft turnaround times could even prove to be shorter.

Alice can be deployed wherever aircraft with conventional engines are in use today and it is cost-efficient, because the innovative electrical propulsion system is not only reliable but also low maintenance - its charging port is standard, and the same type as the GEN3 and many road vehicles use.


DHL's sustainability push

The first-ever flight for Eviation's electric wonder took place at Moses Lake, Washington, USA on 28 September last year, lasting eight minutes and reaching an altitude of 3,500ft (1,100m).

DHL Express had invested in the electric future of aviation at the beginning of August 2021, becoming the first company in the world to order 12 Alice e-freight aircraft from Eviation. 

The new planes will lay the groundwork for a new, key component for DHL Express in the creation of the first electric express network. Delivery of the aircraft is scheduled to begin in 2024. It serves as a marker for DHL's intentions of going net-zero by 2050, while also helping accelerate the electric aviation industry - which is still in its relative infancy, at least compared to electric motoring.


Sustainable aviation is key

According to an international study from 2020, global air traffic is responsible for 3.5% of man-made climate change. From 1940 to 2018, the aviation industry emitted about 32.6 billion tons of CO2. The problem is: about half of these total emissions were caused in the last 20 years of the period covered by the study alone - delaying innovation and action is not an option, something which DHL are conscious of.

"Alice's maiden flight confirms our belief that the era of sustainable aviation is here," said John Pearson, CEO DHL Express after the plane first took to the sky. "With our order of 12 Alice e-cargo planes, we are investing towards our overall goal of net-zero emissions logistics.

"Alice’s range and capacity makes it a unique sustainable solution for our global aviation network, supporting our aspiration to make a substantial contribution in reducing our carbon footprint and ultimately, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Once delivered, DHL intends to use its 12 Alice aircraft for middle-mile operations “in all environments currently serviced by piston and turbine aircraft”, and added that it would be ideal for “feeder routes”. 

DHL alice