Global delivery giant DHL Express has committed to ordering 12 all-electric cargo-delivery aeroplanes, with the first aircraft scheduled to enter service in 2024.
The planes will be sourced from Washington-based electric aircraft company Eviation.
The aircraft model – Alice – is a cargo-configured version of Eviation’s commuter plane and has a capacity of 1200kg. It can be flown by a single pilot and has a maximum range of 815km. Recharging takes 30 minutes per flight hour. It is on track to make its first trial flight later this year.
DHL Express says Alice will be able to fly in all environments currently serviced by its smaller piston and turbine aircraft.
The company currently operates eight ATR propellor-driven aircraft in Central America, however online data shows all of its other aircraft are jet-engined, the smallest models of which have a payload capacity at least five times less than Alice’s capacity, suggesting the new electric planes will be deployed on new regional routes, or even replacing land-transportation options.
Recharging can safely occur while the aircraft is being unloaded and reloaded and, by having fewer moving parts than aviation fuel-powered aircraft, promises increased reliability and reduced maintenance costs.
But the company’s eye is clearly on the future. As electric aircraft technology develops, larger planes will move into production. Last month, United Airlines and its regional partner Mesa Aviation announced an order of at least 200 electric aeroplanes from Heart Aviation and Boeing is conducting tests of an all-electric prototype self-flying air taxi in partnership with Kitty Hawk Corporation, called Wisk.
“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,” said DHL Express CEO John Pearson, in a statement announcing the order.
“DHL Express has been known as a pioneer in the aviation industry for decades. We have found the perfect partner with Eviation as they share our purpose, and together we will take off into a new era of sustainable aviation.”
The move is part of a broader commitment by DHL Express towards achieving zero-emission logistics.
“With this engagement, DHL aims to set up an unparalleled electric Express network and make a pioneering step into a sustainable aviation future. Eviation’s Alice is the world’s leading fully electric aircraft, which enables airlines – both cargo and passenger – to operate a zero-emission fleet.”
Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay said partnering with companies like DHL, who are the leaders in sustainable e-cargo transportation, is a testament that the electric era is now upon the world.
“From day one, we set an audacious goal to transform the aviation industry and create a new era with electric aircraft. This announcement is a significant milestone on our quest to transform the future of flight across the globe.”
Eviation, founded in Israel before relocating to the US, two years ago already had a backlog of more than 150 orders from customers, including Cape Air, a regional carrier in New York and New England (Source: Bloomberg).
Travis Cobb, EVP global network operations and aviation at DHL Express, said Alice’s range and capacity make it “a fantastic sustainable solution for our global network”.
“Our aspiration is to make a substantial contribution in reducing our carbon footprint, and these advancements in fleet and technology will go a long way in achieving further carbon reductions. For us and our customers, this is a very important step in our decarbonisation journey and a step forward for the aviation industry as a whole.”
DHL Express’ parent Deutsche Post DHL Group released a new sustainability roadmap early this year, in which it will invest euro 7 billion in capital and operating expenditure into measures that will reduce its CO2 emissions. The funds will be directed towards the electrification of its last-mile delivery fleet, sustainable aviation fuels and climate-neutral buildings. It has set 2050 as its target date for zero emissions.