Battery-electric powertrains are taking over the whole transportation industry and we are starting seeing them making their way into air transport. We’ve now got a new example of that with the world’s first electric seaplane destined for commercial travel taking flight.
Harbour Air, a British Columbia-based commercial seaplane airline operator, has developed a new all-electric plane in partnership with MagniX.
The company retrofitted a de Havilland Canada Beaver seaplane with a 750-hp electric motor developed by MagniX.
They didn’t confirm the energy capacity of the battery pack installed in the plane, but they did say that it weighs “one tonne” (2,200 lbs). At an energy density of 300 Wh/kg, it would mean a 300 kWh battery pack.
However, the range is not that much of a concern for Harbour Air, who operates shorter routes between Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Whistler, Seattle, Tofino, Salt Spring Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Comox.
MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski told CTV News:
“The range is not an issue for them. Today’s batteries can provide them exactly the range that they need to operate.”
Ganzarski added about the advantages of the electric airplane:
“If you look at a five-year lifecycle of operating a traditional gas engine, together with all the significant maintenance that’s required for that kind of engine because they’re so complex, and all of the fuel that’s burned, it is significantly cheaper to convert and operate an electric aircraft,”
Today, after months of testing, MagniX and Harbour Air successfully completed the first test flight of what they are calling “the world’s first electric seaplane”:
The world’s first electric seaplane! https://t.co/YBOIAQJIKP
— Harbour Air Seaplanes (@HarbourAirLtd) December 10, 2019
They released a few images and live video of the test flight, which took place in Richmond, British Columbia:
The company commented on the achievement earlier today:
“Today, we made history. Launching the world’s first electric commercial aircraft retrofitted with a 750 horsepower all-electric magni500 propulsion system. Thank you to our amazing maintenance team and our partners at MagniX for all your efforts! Together, we did it!”
Now they plan to continue the test program and eventually introduce the plan in their fleet of 53 aircraft, which they want to electrify.
Harbour Air seems to be well-positioned to bring some of the first commercial airplanes in operations based on its routes.
It’s also a great idea to approach air transport electrification through seaplanes since those planes often go into nature and you don’t want to disturb that with polluting gas-powered engines.
We will keep an eye on this effort because I think it will be a good example of early electrification of air transport.
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