Electric Plane

World’s First Electric Plane Flies For 15 Minutes in Canada

Climate issues and air pollution are a top priority for many countries around the world with the number of electric cars in many towns and cities steadily on the increase. But what about the aviation world?

It is a known fact that air travel is damaging the planet with American flights responsible for around 11 percent of our CO2 emissions. But what can we do to reduce it?

This week saw a seaplane, completely powered by electric, take its maiden flight in Vancouver, Canada, leading some to claim it as a “world first” for the aviation sector.

Harbour Air – who has a fleet of airplanes that carries around 500,000 passengers annually – and magniX carried out a test flight of an aircraft that had been fitted with an electric motor. And although the plane was only a small six seater aircraft, it has been hailed as leading the way to “the world’s first all-electric commercial fleet.”

Taking off near the Fraser River in Vancouver, the electric seaplane continued for around 15 minutes before landing safely.

It is hopeful that by bringing electric into the aviation sector, the amount of carbon emissions could be reduced. Similar to that of the motor industry, where electric cars produce between 17 – 30 percent less carbon emissions to that of a petrol or diesel powered car, it is believed electric airplanes can reduce carbon emissions significantly, something the high-polluting sector should be embracing.

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In a joint statement released by magniX and Harbour Air, it was claimed that “this historic flight signifies the start of the third era in aviation – the electric age.”

magniX, an Australian company, actually launched the plane at the Paris Air Show in June this year and states that the propulsion system – the companies used a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver which has a 750-horsepower (560kW) magni500 propulsion system – enabled them to create a “clean and efficient way to power airplanes.”

It is believed that Harbour Air, a Canadian operator of seaplanes, are aiming to have an all-electric fleet of airplanes, they currently have 40 aircraft, by 2022, however this all depends on whether they secure the relevant regulatory and safety approvals.

There are many benefits of having electric airplanes with zero emissions as well as a much lower operating cost. Yet they are proving to be a bigger challenge to engineers, unlike the concept of electric trains and cars, which do not travel such long distances. Currently the plane’s batteries are only able to fly about 100 miles in between battery charging, which severely hampers the majority of flights.

The size of the motors and batteries that would be needed to not only launch an electric plane but to also keep it in the air – and for several hours at a time – would mean that it could be difficult for the planes to be flown.

However these are only minor issues that can be resolved eventually due to the rapid advancements in electric flights. In 2017 a non-commercial electric plane crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans during a round the world trip.

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But will moving airplanes to electric engines actually help cut gas emissions in the aviation sector?

There has been increasing concern regarding the amount of pollution from flying and the impact it has on the planet, with many travelers aiming to reduce their carbon footprint in any way they can. For instance, many try to travel by alternative methods where possible, such as train, while others are utilizing websites that help give something back to the environment – such as BedandTree who plant a tree each time you book your travel through them – while many businesses now hold their cross-country business meetings via video conferencing apps – such as Zoom – therefore removing their impact on the environment completely.

Swiss bank UBS released a survey recently showing that flyers are trying to reduce their air travel due to their environmental concerns, with “flygskam” or “flight shame” spreading throughout the country. And in the United Kingdom it has been claimed that by 2050 the biggest source of air pollution will be from aviation.

However, the prospect of using electric airplanes for long haul flights continues to be a major challenge for those in the aviation sector.

Although there has been a significant advancement in generators, power distribution, electrical motors and controls, battery technology has not advanced as much.

With this in mind, the electric airplane we saw recently in Canada can fly around 100 miles (160km) on lithium battery power, according to AFP.

magniX chief executive Roei Ganzarski commented that “the [flight] range now is not where we’d love it to be, but it’s enough to start the revolution.” He has also questioned ‘’if people are willing to drive an hour to work, why not fly 15 minutes to work?”