DHL Express launches electric cargo aircraft fleet with purchase of Eviation planes

DHL electric aircraft

DHL, the world’s leading logistics service provider, has taken another step toward its goal of reaching emission neutrality by 2050. This week its DHL Express unit announced it has begun assembly of an electric freight network with the acquisition of 12 battery-powered aircraft from Seattle-based Eviation.

DHL buys electric aircraft as first step in zero-emission freight network

The deal, whose value was not revealed, will supply DHL Express with a dozen of Eviation’s electric Alice aircraft, making it the first company to buy the vehicle. The single pilot plane has a maximum capacity of 2,600 lbs., and can fly up to 506 miles at a top speed of around 253 mph. One main feature of the craft is it can be fully recharged in just 30 minutes, allowing for rapid turn-around between flights. The electric motors on Alice planes are described as containing fewer moving parts than most, a design aiming to increase reliability while reducing maintenance costs.

The aircraft is particularly adapted to middle-range routes, and requires little investment in new infrastructure to operate them. DHL Express says it will use the Alice planes to assemble feeder networks across the US by starting on both coasts – California being the first location. 

Owned by Singapore’s Clermont Group, Eviation has focused on developing particularly efficient electric plane technology as a means of cutting both operating costs and greenhouse emissions. The latter point, says DHL Express CEO John Pearson, was a major attraction in it buying the Alice planes.

“We firmly believe in a future with zero-emission logistics,”  Pearson states. “Therefore, our investments always follow the objective of improving our carbon footprint. 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… 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.”

Zero-emission objective by 2050

Trial flights of the Alice craft – which can be configured for either cargo or passenger transportation – is slated for later this year. DHL Express plans on putting the electric aircraft into freight service in 2024.

The DHL group recently announced its decarbonization plan to reach zero emissions by 2050. That will be funded by €7 billions of investment between now and 2030, particularly in the electrification of last-mile delivery fleet, sustainable aviation fuels, and climate-neutral buildings. As part of that effort, DHL revealed last month it had teamed up with Bulgarian automated aircraft manufacturer and service company Dronamics to operate a Europe-wide middle-mile drone delivery network.

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