No, not the animal. This one has wings.
Two Pacific Northwest companies — MagniX, an electric propulsion venture headquartered in Redmond, Wash.; and Harbour Air Seaplanes, an airline based in Vancouver, B.C. — say they have a firm plan to create the first all-electric fleet of commercial airplanes.
MagniX aims to start by outfitting a Harbour Air DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver [shown below] with its 750-horsepower magni500 electric motor for a series of test flights scheduled to begin by the end of this year.
“The excitement level is yet another notch up,” MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski told GeekWire, “because now we’re not talking about just putting the system on an ‘Iron Bird’ on the ground and having it turn a propeller ... but actually taking an aircraft into the sky, an actual aircraft that will be operating and taking people and cargo back and forth as well.”
There's more at the link.
That's a great way to rejuvenate a radial-engined 1950's-vintage aircraft. The change of powerplant has important implications for operating economy, too. The airline's founder and chief executive says:
The company operates a network of 12 short hops from Vancouver, with flights averaging about 30min, says McDougall. Destinations include Seattle Whistler, Victoria and elsewhere along coastal British Columbia.
Those routes are perfect for the magni500 propulsion system, which will have power enough for 30min flights and 30min reserve flying, he says.
. . .
After flights, Harbour will need to charge the batteries or swap in fresh battery packs. But McDougall notes lithium batteries charge quickly, limited only by the amount of "amperage you can throw at them".
Electric engines will actually save Harbour Air money by reducing fuel and maintenance costs, McDougall says, noting P&W engines require a $250,000 overhaul every two years.
"The moving parts are infinitesimal compared to what there is in a turbine or piston engine," he says of the magni500 system. "The maintenance is virtually nil."
Again, more at the link.
I'll be watching this with great interest. The aircraft should be a great deal quieter, without a honking great radial engine turning up front; and if its operating costs can be held down by the new technology, it'll make the airline more profitable and (hopefully) lead to lower air fares for its passengers in future. There appear to be all sorts of upsides to this.
Now, when will we see something similar appear in light aircraft at US airports? I reckon private pilots would love to have a simpler, more cost-effective power plant for their Cessnas, Pipers and Cirruses. MagniX is developing one, the Magni250, with half the power of the Magni500 model to be fitted to Harbor Air's Beavers, so it's entirely possible we'll see that in our skies soon. It looks a lot smaller and lighter than current powerplants, too, which will be good for aircraft handling and payload.