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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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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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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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MagniX, Harbour Air team up on all-electric planes

Harbour Air seaplane
MagniX’s 750-horsepower magni500 all-electric motor will be used on a converted Harbour Air DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane for tests. (Harbour Air Photo)

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 with its 750-horsepower magni500 electric motor for a series of test flights scheduled to begin by the end of this year. The electric propulsion company, which shifted its global HQ from Australia to Redmond last year, has tested a prototype motor on the ground — but this would be the first aerial test of the technology.

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