Beta Technologies Plans a Web of Charging Stations Across the Eastern U.S. to Power Its Electric Planes
Source: Seven Days
The first time Beta Technologies‘ all-electric aircraft landed at Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport this May, airport manager Chris Beitzel said he felt he was witnessing history.
The fixed-wing airplane — with rotors allowing it to take off and land vertically — this time touched down on the runway like a regular airplane. It pulled up next to a tall box installed in 2021 beside a patch of lawn. A ground crew from the pioneering South Burlington aviation company pulled a thick black electric charging cord out of the unit and plugged it into the side of the unusual craft known as an Alia.
“It was just like it was pulling up to a gas station,” Beitzel recalled.
The 350-kilowatt charger is nearly twice as powerful as the fastest available to Tesla EV owners. After its batteries recharged for about an hour, the Alia took off for the next leg of its test flight. The company says the craft can recharge completely in 50 minutes.
“It’s just really exciting to see new aviation technology being developed and having Rutland airport be a part of that new frontier,” Beitzel said.
Engineers at Beta Technologies are racing to overcome myriad technical challenges to make battery-powered flight a commercial reality. They’re trying to make the Alia as light and streamlined as possible so it can achieve its promised range of 250 miles per charge. They’re working to maximize the power per pound delivered by its five lithium-ion battery packs. And they’re hoping to convince regulators that their novel craft is every bit as safe as its fossil fuel-powered, emissions-spewing cousins.
But none of those innovations will matter if the Alia doesn’t have enough places to quickly and conveniently recharge its depleted batteries. Much like Tesla built its own nationwide network of charging stations to keep its sleek EVs on the road, Beta has been constructing superpowerful electric chargers at airports from Vermont to Arkansas.
As fast as the company is expanding in Vermont — with a huge manufacturing facility at Burlington International Airport and a new battery plant in St. Albans — its growth outside the state is just as crucial to its success.
Today, its network is modest: just nine chargers for electric airplanes at seven strategically selected regional airports in Vermont, New York, Ohio and Arkansas. But the company has aggressive expansion plans; it expects to have 15 charging stations online by the end of the year, with 50 more in development.
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