A fully electric version of one of the most famous small utility planes in the world hummed today on its first flight on Moses Lake in central Washington.
Redmond, Wash MagniX and based in Seattle AeroTEC were responsible for the test, which focused on the performance of a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan powered by the MagniX drive system Magni500 with 750 HP.
During today's 30-minute test flight, the hum of the modified eCaravan engine was drowned out by the relative roar of the chase plane's engine. "Little Cessna makes about twice as much noise," said Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX, during his webcast comment.
AeroTEC test pilot Steve Crane brought the aircraft up to 2,500 feet during a so-called “flawless” test flight.
Ganzarski played out the meaning of the moment when the plane landed at Moses Lake's Grant County International Airport, which usually serves as a test ground and aviation warehouse.
"You just witnessed history – the largest fully electric aircraft in the world," he said.
You could argue with this claim: For example, the Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, which relied entirely on solar power and completed an all-round racetrack from 2015 to 2016, had a wing span of 236 feet and one Weight of 5,060 pounds. By comparison, a Cessna Grand Caravan has a 52-foot wingspan and typically weighs 4,700 pounds.
It is more difficult to argue with the importance of the eCaravan experiment. No one will soon take a plane like Solar Impulse 2 for a spin, but fully electric versions of planes like the Cessna Grand Caravan with nine passengers could one day be a common sight in the sky.
"The choice of the Cessna Grand Caravan was very intentional," Ganzarski said after the flight to GeekWire. "It was:" Let's find the plane that everyone in the world knows, uses and lives, and let's give it a new life. "Let's make it electric. Let's make it the Tesla of the air, if you like."
Check out the first flight of the eCaravan MagniX Twitter video::
– magniX (@MagniX) May 28, 2020
And we're not just talking about Cessnas: MagniX, an electric propulsion company with locations in Australia and Redmond, has also converted a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane for battery power in Vancouver, BC Harbor air. This all-electric aircraft made its first flight last December, and Ganzarski said today that the flight tests would continue. Harbor Air aims to have the aircraft certified by the end of 2021 and will eventually switch its entire fleet to electric power.
MagniX's sister company is now based in Israel Eviationis working on a new aircraft breed that is fully electric from the ground up. After all, this aircraft will also be tested in Moses Lake. One of the propulsion options for Eviation's nine-passenger Alice aircraft would use three of MagniX's 375-horsepower MagniX50 electric motors. (MagniX and Eviation both belong to the Singapore-based Clermont Group and Ganzarski acts as chairman of Eviation.)
The eCaravan experiment is part of MagniX's efforts to have the Magni500 system and Cessna conversion certified by the end of 2021. AeroTEC, which focuses on testing, engineering and certification in the aerospace industry, is an important partner in these efforts.
MagniX's strategy is to offer fully electric options for aircraft that operate short-haul flights – for example, with four or five passengers or a load of cargo on flights with a range of up to 100 miles. This range would gradually increase with improvements in technology for batteries and drives, Ganzarski said.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUI3ZjCq11A (/ embed)
The current business model envisages that AeroTEC will replace the conventional drive train of an aircraft with the fully electric drive system from MagniX. The two companies have not yet worked out retrofit prices, but Ganzarski said this will save money in the long run.
“If you look at the lifespan of current, traditional internal combustion engines in these five and ten year planes, buy the engine, install it, maintain it, refuel it, change the oil on it. They overtake it, etc. etc., ”he said. "We expect electricity – retrofitting or expanding the aircraft with a MagniX propulsion system – to cut that in half."
Fuel-free flying can be the biggest selling point. "This 30-minute flight that we took would cost about $ 300 to $ 400 in a traditional grand caravan," Ganzarski said. “Here in Moses Lake and Grant County, 80% of the electricity is renewable. You pay just over 2 cents per kilowatt hour. This 30-minute flight would have cost us around $ 6 of electricity compared to $ 300 to $ 400 in fuel. "
All-electric aviation has other benefits ranging from quieter operation to zero emissions. Lee Human, CEO of AeroTEC, said reduced maintenance costs are another consideration. "Classic aircraft engines need a major overhaul every 3,000 to 4,000 hours of operation. Overhaul is a $ 350,000 to $ 400,000 job for this aircraft," he said. "These costs just came off the table."
Ganzarski declined to discuss whether MagniX and AeroTEC have received orders for conversions, except that "interest is far greater than we had anticipated at the time".
"It is obvious to everyone that electrification -" enlargement ", I like it – is the future because the systems we have today for flight, flying engines and such systems are simply not sustainable," Human said . "It is there because there is no choice. Well, today we have another choice."
Ganzarski said electric propulsion could revolutionize aviation in the way Tesla is revolutionizing the electric car market. But at least initially, not all revolutions are successful: In 2017, a startup from the Seattle region called Zunum Aero tried to develop a hybrid electric regional aircraft with financial support from Boeing and JetBlue in the millions as Washington State Clean Energy Fund. Efforts fluctuated amid financial problems last year.
Update for 3.20 p.m. PT May 28: We updated this report with additional comments from Ganzarski and Human.