The incident, which could be a blow to the nascent electric flight industry, happened during ground testing of an aeroplane believed to be the Eviation Alice, a nine-seater all-electric craft aimed at the regional market.
Images posted online show fire crews using multiple hoses to deluge the burning plane on the tarmac of Prescott Regional Airport in Arizona.
An Eviation statement said a “ground-based battery system” is believed to have caused the fire, and the company has launched a full investigation into the causes. Firefighters on standby during the test reportedly extinguished the flames "quickly" and there were no injuries.
The company did not initially answer Professional Engineering questions about the state of the aircraft, but later said it was "intact".
“Eviation would like to thank the fire department and the staff of Prescott airport for their ongoing support and assistance in quickly resolving this incident. We will fully investigate this matter as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I thank my colleagues for their pioneering work as we develop one of the most advanced aircraft in the world," said Eviation CEO, Omer Bar-Yohay.
The incident is a “setback for green aviation tech”, wrote Tim Robinson, editor in chief of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Aerospace magazine.
The Alice is one of the most advanced efforts at pure-electric flight. The plane has three MagniX electric motors, which have already been successfully used in an electric retrofit of a de Havilland seaplane.
The Eviation aircraft, which grabbed the attention at the Paris Air Show last year, has a forecast range of 1,000km, with 45 minutes in reserve. It will have a 3,600kg lithium-ion (nickel, manganese and cobalt) battery, offering 920kWh.
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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.