EVIATION – PUSHING THE ENVELOPE
Eviation is doing more than developing an electric plane. They could change the very nature of the flight
“Getting talent on board is a unique effort we are investing in continuously. We have been blessed with a great story, a plane that will change travel,” says Omer Bar-Yohay, the CEO of Eviation. “People want in on that even if you can’t pay what the giants of Silicon Valley pay. But the other side of the equation is they need to feel they are doing something significant that pushes the envelope.”
Pushing the envelope is an appropriate phrase. While it might conjure images of letters being slid across desks, the phrase has its roots in the aviation sector, where test pilots would push
the atmospheric “envelope” of planet Earth. It means to test the limits, to try things nobody else has tried before. This is what Eviation is built to do.
“Eviation is an Israeli based start-up founded in 2015 with one goal: To find a way to travel to regional distances. Our solution was to make aviation a more day-to-day part of the transportation
industry and we believe the key to that is making aviation electric,” explains Bar-Yohay.
Their goal is not to create a plane that can replace the current aircraft in the industry, it is to change the way we think about planes in general.
“The reason is sustainability in the broader sense. We see sustainability as a three-faceted term,” Bar-Yohay says. “The first one is economically sustainable it needs to make economic sense over time. How much does it cost to move a person a certain distance? The second facet is it needs to be environmentally sustainable, emissions-free, a lower cost in energy. One of the most efficient ways to move weight is through the air at medium speeds and altitudes, it makes sense to move people that way. And the third facet is social sustainability- it must be a solution people want to use and want to live next to, coming further and further away from what is currently happening in aviation, where people would rather live away from airports because of noise and congestion. The electric transport revolution when applied to aviation, could make aviation something that doesn’t take us to one spot and spread us around but something that can take you from any point A to any point B.”
BUILDING FROM THE SKY DOWN
Even that description doesn’t fully encapsulate the scale of the Eviation project. They aren’t just building a conventional aircraft with electric motors where you would normally find traditional piston engines. They are building a new kind of plane from scratch.
“It is best described through the properties of the aircraft. It is the plane you would like to see in the 21st century, built from the ground up to be electric,” Bar-Yohay says. “The aircraft’s estimated costs are less than 50% of its gas-guzzling equivalent while having at least the same performance. It is a fraction of the cost of a piston engine aircraft, in a stylish package with a safer and more stable ride. It is the combination of a plane that is not more expensive than a new aircraft but costs so little to operate and gives you the ability to serve your clients in a better way and be more environmentally responsible and long term sustainable. It doesn’t make any sense to buy anything else once this plane is out.”
Of course, a project of this magnitude is no easy task. “The biggest challenges are changing over time,” Bar-Yohay tells us. “The most difficult thing in building aircraft is moving
an idea to a certifiable design and a certifiable product and then a certified product and that is a big gap sometimes, and then from there to bring it to market.”
Eviation has pushed through these challenges thanks to a strong sense of identity that has been baked into the company from day one. “When we started, we had to decide who we are, what we are and what we aimed to deliver,” Bar-Yohay says. “You’ve also got years before we offer any income. Once the business is achieved and you understand the product and get enough financing to really cover the cost of the process, team building and building the plane, then the prospect of being certified in the prevailing regulatory environment is the challenge and we needed a lot of engineering for talent. The next move is to certify the plane which is what we are doing right now. We are getting it qualified and eventually certified, and from that point on we are ramping up production and going to market in a responsible and scalable way.”
PARTNERSHIPS TAKING FLIGHT
The important thing about a project like this is that it cannot be done alone. Eviation has turned the development of its aircraft into an international project.
“Today it is more of a global effort. The companies building aircraft at the scale we are talking about are few and far between so we are in a global competition for talent and we are looking for new people all the time,” Bar-Yohay says. “We have a lot of top talent approaching us, but we need the right place for them so they feel they are part of the story.”
That search for talent goes far beyond simply recruiting people into the company, Bar-Yohay explains, “People ask us how we started with 20-something employees, how do you build a plane when people are typically building a plane with thousands of people. And the answer is “with friends” and those friends are the heart of what we have been doing. Our partners and risk-sharing partners are part of our ecosystem. The group of companies that saw our vision and thought ‘maybe, just maybe these crazy guys from Israel are right’. A lot of those things were about finding global expertise. So there are a lot of things you don’t need to invent, or where someone has a clear advantage over what you are developing. We were able to work with them. We are very grateful for our partners; it is a collaborative effort rather than a competitive one.”
Indeed, right now Eviation is looking to shift their centre of gravity onto a more international stage.
“We are shifting our centre of gravity from our R&D arm in Israel to two sites in the West of the USA, and the idea is to move the effort of certification and management predominantly to the US. Our long-term dreaming capacity, together with something I would call an incubator for top engineers, will remain in Israel. Our challenge over the next year and a half is growing those two teams simultaneously. We are doing very intense work with early-adopting clients to create a successful launch programme for the aircraft once it is certified. So if I want to stand here and say we have built the first electric aircraft and it looks great I would get lots of orders but looking after those pilots with sales and maintenance would have been impossible for a business of our size. We are trying to grow as strategically and organically as possible.”