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Swiss battery venture joins electric airplane team

One of the pioneers of battery-powered aviation is joining a Pacific Northwest team that’s aiming to get an all-electric seaplane certified for service in Canada.

H55, the Swiss battery venture co-founded by Solar Impulse pilot André Borschberg, is partnering with Vancouver, B.C.-based Harbour Air Seaplanes and Everett, Wash.-based MagniX on their project to convert De Havilland Beaver commuter airplanes to all-electric power.

Harbour Air is providing the Beaver, MagniX is providing the electric propulsion system, and now H55 will provide its advanced battery modules to power the plane.

MagniX and Harbour Air have been putting a prototype eBeaver through flight tests since December 2019 to gather data on such parameters as cruise performance, takeoff thrust efficiency, electromagnetic interference and noise levels. The team is working with Transport Canada on a supplemental type certificate program to clear converted all-electric planes for commercial operations by as early as next year.

Eventually, Harbour Air plans to transform all of its seaplanes into an all-electric fleet. The company provides commuter air service to a locations along British Columbia’s coast, plus “nerd bird” flights between Vancouver and Seattle.

H55 was founded to continue the vision of Solar Impulse 2, which Borschberg and fellow adventurer Bertrand Piccard piloted around the world on a historic solar-powered trip in 2015-2016.

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QuantumScape pursues ‘breakthrough’ in batteries

Bill Gates isn’t just investing in QuantumScape’s potentially revolutionary lithium-metal battery technology — he’s giving the venture advice as well.

“I didn’t honestly think he knew anything about chemistry, and we are all about chemistry,” Fortune quotes QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh as saying.

But Singh found out that Microsoft’s billionaire co-founder is a quick learner. “When he thinks something is important he can dive really deep and become an expert in that area,” he told Fortune. “He has gotten very deep into this area.”

Today QuantumScape reported eye-opening progress in its campaign to produce a solid-state alternative to lithium-ion batteries, the current industry standard for energy storage applications ranging from smartphones and laptops to electric cars and airplanes.

The Silicon Valley company said its tests with prototype single-layer cells demonstrated the ability to recharge batteries up to 80% capacity in just 15 minutes. The data suggest that the technology could produce car batteries capable of lasting hundreds of thousands of miles and weathering temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius (22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit).

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Aviation vision fueled by hydrogen and electricity

Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX says it’s partnering with a Los Angeles startup called Universal Hydrogen to retrofit 40-passenger regional aircraft with carbon-free, hydrogen-fueled electric powertrains.

The partnership opens up a new frontier for MagniX, which is already involved in flight tests for all-electric versions of smaller airplanes such as the de Havilland Beaver (for Vancouver, B.C.-based Harbour Air) and the Cessna Grand Caravan.

This time, MagniX and Universal Hydrogen aim to transform the de Havilland Canada DHC8-Q300, better known as the Dash 8. The Dash 8 is a time-honored twin turboprop traditionally used for commercial regional air service. If the project succeeds, the lessons learned can be applied for the development of retrofit conversion kits for the wider ATR 42 family of aircraft.

Universal Hydrogen’s plan for the Dash 8 calls for MagniX to provide an electric propulsion system in the 2-megawatt class for each wing, powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

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All-electric Cessna airplane takes to the air

MagniX airplane and Roei Ganzarski
MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski talks about his company’s all-electric Cessna Grand Caravan airplane, parked in the background at Moses Lake’s airport after its first flight. Ganzarski wears a mask to conform to social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. (MagniX via Facebook)

An all-electric version of one of the world’s best-known small utility airplanes hummed through its first flight today at Moses Lake in central Washington state.

Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX and Seattle-based AeroTEC were in charge of the test, which focused on the performance of a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan powered by MagniX’s 750-horsepower Magni500 propulsion system.

During today’s 30-minute-long test flight, the hum of the modified eCaravan’s motor was drowned out by the relative roar of the chase plane’s engine. “The small Cessna is making about double the noise,” MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski said during his webcast commentary.

AeroTEC test pilot Steve Crane took the plane up as high as 2,500 feet during what he termed a “flawless” test flight.

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Harbour Air’s electric seaplane makes first flight

Harbour Air's electric seaplane
Harbour Air’s all-electric seaplane takes its first test flight. (Harbour Air via Twitter)

The cheers seemed louder than the motor when Harbour Air’s all-electric seaplane made its first flight over the Fraser River today, marking a milestone for zero-emission propulsion.

Vancouver, B.C.-based Harbour Air had the decades-old de Havilland Beaver plane converted to use Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX’s 750-horsepower Magni500 electric motor, and today’s flight from the airline’s terminal south of Vancouver’s airport kicked off what’s expected to be a two-year-long certification process.

Harbour Air and MagniX have been building up to the milestone for months. On Monday, the plane’s floats lifted out of the water briefly for a “skip test,” but today’s straight-line trip up the river and back was considered the first honest-to-goodness flight test. Harbour Air CEO Greg McDougall was at the controls.

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The electric aviation revolution will be televised

Harbour Air electric plane
MagniX’s Magni500 electric motor is installed in Harbour Air’s de Havilland Beaver, in preparation for flight tests. (MagniX / Harbour Air Photo)

Two Pacific Northwest aviation ventures — the Harbour Air seaplane airline in Vancouver, B.C., and the MagniX electric propulsion company in Redmond, Wash. — are ready to start flight tests of an all-electric passenger airplane. And those first tests are due to be live-streamed via Twitter.

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Boeing and Kitty Hawk reboot flying car venture

Cora flying taxi
The Boeing-Kitty Hawk joint venture known as Wisk will focus on development of an electric-powered air taxi known as Cora. (Wisk Photo)

The partnership that Boeing and Google co-founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk venture forged to develop personal air vehicles has been reorganized and rebranded as a joint venture with a new name: Wisk.

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MagniX gets set for electric flight tests in December

MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski
Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX and chairman of Eviation, discusses electric aviation during a meetup in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX, which aims to become the Tesla of aviation, is gearing up for the first flight tests of an all-electric Harbour Air seaplane in British Columbia next month, the company’s CEO says.

But that’s not all: In addition to supplying a 750-horsepower Magni500 motor for use on a de Havilland Beaver that’s being converted to all-electric propulsion at Harbour Air’s B.C. headquarters, MagniX is experimenting on a converted Cessna Citation airplane in Moses Lake, Wash. The company is also laying plans for a next-generation 1,500HP Magni1000 motor.

Those are just some of the projects described by MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski this week during a meet-up presented by Hacker News Seattle Meetup Group and Cofounders Connect at ATLAS Workbase.

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MagniX revs up electric motor to get set for flight

The Magni500 sounds just about as loud as you’d expect for an airplane engine — but technically speaking, this is no engine. It’s a 750-horsepower, all-electric motor that MagniX has been revving up to turn an aircraft propeller at full power.

That’s a significant milestone for MagniX, which has offices in Redmond, Wash., and in Australia. The successful ground tests signal that the company is getting closer to having the Magni500 flight-tested on a Harbour Air plane in British Columbia.

“This milestone is significant not only for MagniX, but for the electric aviation industry in general, because it is now the world’s largest all-electric motor (560 kw /  750HP) that has been installed in an aircraft-like system, turning a real full-sized aircraft propeller and controlling prop pitch via a governor,” MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski told GeekWire in an email.

“This was the last step before installing such a system on an aircraft — in our case, the Harbour Air Beaver,” he said. “We are now testing our third 750HP motor.”

Ganzarski said MagniX has completed more than 50 hours of multiple full-power, full-flight profile tests on the Magni500 at its engineering center on Australia’s Gold Coast. “The motor has shipped to B.C. and has now been installed on the Beaver aircraft as part of the full system integration,” he said.

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Boeing and Safran boost electric aviation venture

Electric Power Systems CEO Nathan Millecam says he’s thrilled to be working with Boeing and Safran. (EPS Photo)

Boeing HorizonX Ventures and Safran Corporate Ventures say they’ve made a joint investment in Utah-based Electric Power Systems, a company whose energy storage products are blazing a trail for electric airplanes.

It’s the latest tie-up for Boeing and Safran, which have partnered up in such ventures as Initium Aerospace, a manufacturer of auxiliary power units for airplanes; and MATIS Aerospace, a company in Morocco that produces wiring products for several airframe and engine companies.

The size of the Series A funding round was not disclosed, but Boeing HorizonX’s investments typically range from millions of dollars to the low tens of millions of dollars.

Representatives of both companies said the funding will help Electric Power Systems develop a highly automated industrial base capable of producing aviation-grade energy storage systems, and advance technologies aimed at reducing the cost of battery systems for electric airplanes.

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