DHL Express has ordered 12 electric cargo aircraft from start-up Eviation for delivery in 2024 and plans to build the world's first electric air cargo network. Credit: DHL America/Eviation.

Net zero — it’s the catch-word of the new century.

Every company wants to hit zero emissions, and has set targets to do so.

This week, DHL Express — which flies cargo around the world — announced that it’s purchasing 12 electric cargo planes from start-up Eviation for use in US package delivery as part of a plan to reduce carbon emissions, CNBC reported.

“We’re going to spread them out in between the West Coast and the East Coast. These Eviation electric planes will replace some of our current smaller feeder aircraft that we have in those markets,” said Mike Parra, CEO of DHL Express Americas said in a release.

“This lines up with our commitment to sustainability and the spirit of where we’re heading to a net zero emissions by 2050.”

Eviation is a start-up focused on electric fixed-wing airplanes for cargo and passengers, the report said.

The Washington state-based company is building the Alice, a plane capable of carrying 2,500 pounds at a maximum speed of 250 mph and go 500 miles on a single charge.

Charging time takes around 30 minutes, roughly the same time it takes to put fuel into a similar-sized traditional airplane, according to DHL Express, a division of Germany’s Deutsche Post DHL Group.

“DHL represents a very close-to-the-ideal customer for us,” said Eviation founder and CEO Omer Bar-Yohay.

“They have the right footprint in the sense that they use planes of similar size to move parcels around today. This kind of goes hand in hand with what we’re doing at Eviation.

“We’re building Alice to fit existing business models, to fit existing airports, and to really work within the network of the operator.”

Eviation is a start-up focused on electric fixed-wing airplanes for cargo and passengers. Credit: DHL America/Eviation.

DHL’s North American business is primarily focused on importing goods purchased from companies overseas and delivering to business and consumer customers in America, the report said.

The Alice planes will transport packages from major hubs to smaller markets within range, often referred to as middle mile.

DHL Express said it considered EVAs and other aircraft but decided the Alice was a better fit for its US network.

“We’re building fixed wing because we can carry more, we can fly further and faster and it fits in an existing regulatory environment. We don’t need any rule changes to make this happen. We just need to build it.” Bar-Yohay said.

“I think that’s a real differentiator between building a fixed-wing major-size aircraft like this and the other vehicles out there today.”

The Washington-based startup says the Alice could make its maiden flight before the year is out. In fact, the company is so confident in the battery-powered commuter jet that it expects it to be in operation by 2024, the report said.

Eviation, owned by Singapore’s Clermont Group, is one of a number of companies looking to develop small electric aircraft that would incur lower energy and operating costs, release less emissions and be quieter than conventionally fuelled planes.

According to a press release, each propeller is powered by a magni650 electric motor by magniX. It will also feature a fly-by-wire system from Honeywell, which will afford the pilot improved controls.

With its range and speed, the Alice should be able to easily make the trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco on a single charge.

Anyone paying attention to electric vehicle announcements is probably used to outlandish power and range claims, but Alice’s numbers should actually be attainable. That’s because its high-density battery system uses currently available cells.

Industry sources say electrification is a growing trend for passenger and commercial vehicles and could become a US$5 trillion market by 2030, the report said.

UPS announced it was purchasing electric vertical aircraft, also known as EVAs or eVTOLs, for package delivery from Vermont-based Beta Technologies.

FedEx said it will spend US$2 billion to make its fleet 100% electric and achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2040. 

Sources: CNBC, Aerotime Hub, Reuters, Robb Report