All-Electric Float Plane Makes First Flight in Canada

Harbour Air ePlane 5 photos
Photo: Harbour Air
Harbour Air ePlaneHarbour Air ePlaneHarbour Air ePlaneHarbour Air ePlane
Electric airplanes still have a long way to go before they become a common presence in the sky, but steps are being made to get us closer to that scenario, in order to reduce air travel’s massive carbon footprint.
Earlier this week, a fully-electric floatplane made its first flight on a stretch of the Fraser river in Canada, just south of Vancouver. The aircraft was co-created by Harbuor Air, a small regional airline, and a Seattle-based startup specializing in electric motors called magniX.

The latter developed an electric motor designed to work in aeronautical applications which it dubbed Magni500. It makes 750 horsepower and for the purpose of this demonstration, it was retrofitted to a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver floatplane, commonly used for short regional trips.

With the electric motor in place of the traditional internal-combustion engine, the Beaver was faster and considerably quieter; according to the pilot, it felt pretty much the same as before, but gutsier.

Harbour Air has a fleet of 13 DCH-2 Beavers and all of them are flown on routes shorter than 110 km (70 miles) and this requires each plane to be in the air for around 20 minutes at a time. The exact capacity of the lithium-ion battery pack used was not specified, but the plane configuration tested already exceeds that requirement.

One problem that currently renders this plane less effective compared to one with piston engine is its charge time. For every minute spent in the air, it requires a minute of charging - in other words, after a 30 minute flight, it requires 30 minutes of charging.

But that the first flight has been successfully completed, the next task is for Harbor Air to obtain a license to carry passengers and when it accomplishes this, the airline could become the world’s first to run an all-electric plane on a commercial line.

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