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Harbour Air and magniX partner to build world’s first all-electric airline; seaplanes to ePlanes

Electric aviation technology company magniX and Harbour Air, North America’s largest seaplane airline, announced a partnership to transform Harbour Air seaplanes into an all-electric commercial fleet powered by the magni500, a 560 kW (751 shp) all-electric motor that delivers 2,814 N·m of torque.

Magni500

magni500

Operating 12 routes between hubs such as Seattle and Vancouver and across the Pacific Northwest, Harbour Air welcomes more than 500,000 passengers on 30,000 commercial flights each year. Through this partnership, both companies are furthering the vision to someday connect communities with clean, efficient and affordable electric air travel.

Harbour Air first demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by becoming the first fully carbon-neutral airline in North America in 2007, through the purchase of carbon offsets. Through our commitment to making a positive impact on people’s lives, the communities where we operate and the environment, we are once again pushing the boundaries of aviation by becoming the first aircraft to be powered by electric propulsion. We are excited to bring commercial electric aviation to the Pacific Northwest, turning our seaplanes into ePlanes.

—Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air Seaplanes

The aviation industry currently contributes 12% of all US carbon emissions and 4.9% globally, all while providing few low-cost, fuel-efficient options for passenger flights under 1,000 miles. By modifying existing Harbour Air planes with all-electric magniX propulsion systems, the partnership will create the world’s first completely electric commercial seaplane fleet. A Harbour Air ePlane will have zero reliance on fossil fuels and produce zero emissions.

In 2018, 75% of worldwide airline flights were 1,000 miles or less in range. With magniX’s new propulsion systems coupled with emerging battery capabilities, we see tremendous potential for electric aviation to transform this heavily trafficked ‘middle mile’ range. We’re excited to partner with Harbour Air, a forward thinking, like-minded company that is dedicated to bringing environmentally conscious, cost effective air-transport solutions to the West Coast of North America. This partnership will set the standard for the future of commercial aviation operators.

—Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX

The first aircraft to be converted will be the DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver, a six-passenger commercial aircraft used across Harbour Air’s route network. Harbour Air and magniX expect to conduct first flight tests of the all-electric aircraft in late 2019.

Beaver

DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver

This partnership follows significant milestones for both companies, including the successful testing of magniX’s 350 HP all-electric motor and the addition of a Vancouver to Seattle route in Harbour Air’s destination roster.

Comments

HarveyD

The almost indestructible low speed de Havilland Beaver has be flying for decades, specially in places with adverse conditions.

Is it the most appropriate model to electrify? What batteries can supply enough energy to keep it flying up to 1000 miles. Will an up-to-date FC be added?

Gasbag

It’s a puddle jumper. They do a lot of tours. Most of their flights are 20-45 minutes. They are a business looking to lower their costs and improve their customer experience. Electricity is readily available and costs significantly less than other fuels. The absence of motor noise would be a significant differentiator between them and their competitors.

Engineer-Poet

They'll still have propeller noise (the prop tips going supersonic is a huge contributor to aircraft noise emissions) but the lack of exhaust and intake noise will help.

Calgarygary

The deHavilland bush planes (Beaver, Otter and Twin Otter) are venerable icons in Canadian culture. Even if the electric Beaver is only short range, it will get a lot of attention and demonstrate the potential of electrified mobility in these parts.

Lad

The current engine used by the Beaver is about 300-450 hp; so the e motor rated at 350 hp should work OK, especially with all that torque. Don't know the dimensions of the motor; but, some streamlining of the front cowling might be possible if the motor is small enough. That could improve the aero and help reduce drag.

This project will be huge if they are successful.

Elon Musk says we need batteries with a density of about 400 Wh/Kg to make aircraft viable. If this aircraft is reliable using current batteries then as battery technology advances so will the range capability

Gasbag

“, especially with all that torque. ”

Contra Rotating Props (CRP) should help avoid an embarrassing mistake. Aside from making life easier for the pilot an advantage is how quickly the plane can be ready for takeoff.

electric-car-insider.com

HarveyD > What batteries can supply enough energy to keep it flying up to 1000 miles.

Answer: None. And no such battery is needed.

The original gas-powered Beaver’s range is 732 km (455 miles). The upfitted turbine version by Viking has a range of 600 statute miles.

The electric version does not need even a tenth that much range for Harbour Air‘s sightseeing missions. Which is undoubtedly where this EV upfit will enter service.

Good to see Harbour Air make a significant commitment to sustainability. Bravo!


mahonj

Electric power should be good for short range aviation.
As batteries get better, they can go further, or do multiple hops between charging.
IMO, hybrid propulsion will be needed for any decent range - just use batteries for take off and landing.
You will also want more efficient designs, these planes are rather heavy for their load carrying and range, but I suppose they have to be very rugged.
Wait till they make a battery powered AN-2!

Also, the more people do it, even in restricted zones, the better it will get.

yoatmon

New aircraft carriers use an electric booster to get the planes aloft. I assume that installation of such boosters are easier to implement on an airfield than on a carrier.
Most energy is needed for take-off; cruising needs far less energy than take-off. And during landing, recuperation lowers the energy consumption even more than either take-off or cruising.

Herman

This isn't nearly as certain a near-term outcome as being discussed here.

For revenue service even in "sightseeing" flights the aircraft will require reserve for headwind, temperature, go-around and emergencies (requiring maximum power at end-of-flight and worst-case environment), etc. If you know where those requirements are defined in the FARs for all-electric aircraft, lemme know. If you can't find them, either, remember that even now with tremendous levels of industry coaxing and particiption we're at least another 12-18 months from a workable regulatory stance.

Even at an average propellor shaft power input of 200kW (REALLY optimistic for a Beaver with a sufficient number of self-loading cargo packages) that requirement will mean even a 150kWh battery will be marginal. Even at Muskian energy density that's >700kg of battery and we haven't even started talking about crash-land shock requirements for battery integrity with pesky Li battery structural failure. Battery swaps will add more profit robbing weight for QD's, handling and restraint mechanisms, etc.

Additionally, to have a meaningful revenue stream, this "little" battery will undergo at least 95% down to 20% SoC and back several times a day, so cycle "wear" and thermal management challenges are non-trivial. (BTW there will be NO meaningful recuperation in the flight cycle).

Actual service might start by 2022. But I doubt it. Nonetheless I'm sure there are several apps developed and competing right now for phone-based reservations, payment, sharing of in-flight pictures and live-streamed adventures. And that's all that matters, right?

gryf

@Herman
Check revised FAA Part 23 (particularly page 27, "Accommodating Hybrid and Electric Propulsion". Reference: https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/recently_published/media/Part23_FinalRule_2120-AK65_WebCopy.pdf.

gryf

@Herman
The FAA's newly updated Part 23 overhauls the airworthiness standards for GA airplanes weighing less than 19,000 pounds with 19 or fewer seats.

gryf

From the Vancouver Sun, March 26, 2019.
“The intent is to eventually convert the whole fleet,” said Harbour Air’s founder and CEO. Greg McDougall. of the move to electric planes. “It would be a staged situation because the range of the (electric) aircraft presently, with the present battery capacity, would be around a half an hour with a half-an-hour reserve.

electric-car-insider.com

Herman:

Gryf already answered it with the McDougall quote, but here’s your Reg:

§ 91.151 Fuel requirements for flight in VFR conditions.
(a) No person may begin a flight in an airplane under VFR conditions unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed -

(1) During the day, to fly after that for at least 30 minutes

electric-car-insider.com

We feature the Pipistrel Alpha Electro on the cover of the upcoming issue of Electric Car Insider magazine.

I’m also planning to add one to the Electric Car Guest Drive, possibly this year.

sd

EP

Typically, propellers start to make considerable noise at about 0.7 mach so it is common to keep tip speeds of propellers or wind turbine blades below this limit. Some military helicopters run over this limit but are still well below mach 1. In the early 50's Republic built a prototype version of the F-84 with a gas turbine and a supersonic propeller. It made so much noise that it was quickly labeled the Thunder Screech and apparently make people sick 1/2 mile away. The Russian Tu-95 (Bear Bomber) has counter-rotating propellers that can exceed Mach 1 tip speeds and is considered the noisiest plane in existence.

For reference I am building a STOL aircraft with a Rotax 914 engine with a max propeller speed of 2385 RPM. With a 75 inch dia propeller, the tip speed is about 0.69 mach but I also have scimitar shaped blades which will delay the onset of noise. Also, at a more common cruise power setting the tip speeds will be about 0.62 mach. I am hoping the plane will be relatively quiet as I am not a fan of noise

Brom Nader

@Herman
Interesting comment - thanks.
I would guess that for a beaver with a limited max takeoff weight, most efficient cruise speed would be not more than 30 kW of power. So storage required would be 30kWh, and if you add an extra contingency of 50%, that would be 45 kWh for 30 minutes of flight or 70 kWh for 1 hour of flight. 150 kWh that you propose will give you 3hrs with the contingency and 4.5 hours of flight time without contingency. This is way too rich and not required. At 5 kg/kWh, 30kW would translate to 150 kg or 225 kg with extra contingency (not 700 kg). The batteries can be put in a compartmentalized modified pontoons, and thus the issue of spontaneous combustion, which is very rare, would be addressed.

200 kW power that you propose is way too rich. Note that due to the flat torque curve of an electric motor and the persistent over-specification of engines by the manufacturers, one hp on an ICE translates to 0.5 kW (and not 0.74 kW) on an aircraft.

There are no need for battery swaps. 45 kWh can be fast charged in 30 minutes. That is a one hour flight, because reserve is not normally recharged.

With a 1hr fly + 0.5 reserve battery of 70 kWh (which includes 50% contingency), the DoD will not dip below 40% (and not 20%). This greatly improves the cycle time to a few thousand cycles. Thermal management is strictly a charging matter, and that can easily be done with land-based blowers (air cooled), or pumping seawater (liquid cooled). During a few minutes of takeoff where 150 kW may be needed, the rush of ambient air can cool down the pack which is discharging at 2C - a very modest rate.

I believe I have addressed all your objections?

Brom Nader

@sd

Have you considered a 5 blade prop instead of 2 blades, so RPM can be reduced?

sd

Brom

The RPM is fixed by the engine and in my case the gear ratio. You want to have full power available at takeoff. I will be using a 3 blade propeller. If you want to cut the tip speed, it is possible to add blades and reduce the diameter. In general, adding blades reduces the efficiency slightly so, as always, everything is a trade off. The propeller pitch is also adjustable. In my case, it is only ground adjustable but the Beaver will almost certainly have in flight adjustable pitch. Also, with an electric motor, you have more control over both the torque and the RPM so in flight they will be able to increase the pitch and reduce the RPM. With a seaplane, the important thing is to have enough power to get up on the step or in a planning mode to minimize the water drag. Once they are in cruise mode, they will probably cut the power back to about 55% of takeoff power.

electric-car-insider.com

sd, exciting to hear about your build project. Do you have a web site for it?

Brom, 30kW ~ 40 hp, not enough for cruise. As sd mentions, 55% of full power is a more likely value for “economy cruise.” (75% is typical for x-country travel). Probably they are in “loiter mode” for the short tours, 10 -20 mph over stall which is 60 mph with flaps up. I don’t know the exact power setting for that but you can extrapolate from a top speed of 158 mph at full power when fitted with pontoons.

The original DHC-2 Beaver is powered by a 450 hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 engine. ~250hp at 55%.

The Beaver has a 2,100 lb useful load. If Harbour Air is going to give up a couple passenger seats to facilitate the transition from $5/gal Avgas to $0.10/kWh (or less with solar) electric fuel ($USD) this could work for their short “tours”.

gryf

@Brom
Good points about battery requirements.
The real concerns about battery thermal management for aircraft is not overheating as much as performance due to cold temperatures. This is mentioned in FAA part 23 "§ 23.45. Because cold temperatures, rather than high temperatures, may have a negative performance effect on an electric propulsion system or a hybrid system, the FAA revises the proposed language to account for performance degradations at low temperatures. "
The DHC-2 Beaver has a fuel based cabin heater for passenger comfort so this could be continued. However, battery performance would also be effected at altitude.
Do you know if Harbour Air has addressed these concerns? Possibly with the use of a battery coolant heater.

gryf

@electric-car-insider
The fuel cost of the DHC-2 is probably not the major operating cost for the aircraft (a 1000 hour TBO cost of roughly $50,000 plus regular maintenance ). The retirement of the 90 year old P&W R-985 Wasp Junior radial will be worth the investment, particularly if they retain the iconic profile of the DHC-2.

Answering my own question - the batteries could be placed where the 95 gallon belly tanks are located and maintained at proper temperature from the cabin heater.
Also, this should allow room for a 100 kWH battery. If it weighs around 500 kg, this would compensate for the weight of the 138 gallon fuel capacity (including wing tanks) and the weight reduction of replacing the P&W R-985 Wasp.

Engineer-Poet

These being seaplanes operating over water (and the relatively sheltered Puget Sound at that), they are almost always flying over a suitable landing spot.  They can also stretch their range by descending almost to the surface and flying in ground effect, should that be required.  This is truly an ideal situation for battery-powered aircraft.

electric-car-insider.com

A review in Plane & Pilot says fuel burn at 110 kts (135 mph) ranges from 22 to 28 gph.

Even at 20 gph, fuel cost is at least $100 per hr. Fleet maintenance is likely to be substantially less expensive than for a typical private owner (not cheap by any means - it is an airplane). Even at $50/hr engine reserve, fuel is 2/3 of the operating expense.

You’re correct that lower cost maintenance is undoubtedly also a big driver here.

Early on though, you’ll see fairly low TBOs for electric aircraft, and not cheap. The Alpha Electro’s TBO is 2,000 hrs for example, even though industrial electric motors routinely go past their 100,000 hour TBOs.

Great to see this exciting development by a savvy and deeply experienced aviation operator.

gryf

@electric-car-insider
Also saw similar information on avcanada.ca "Top Aviation Forums" that DHC2 Operating Costs that Consumables were 2/3 of costs:

Consumables
Fuel: (23 Gal) $184.00
Oil: (2QT) $15.00
Misc: (Pledge, H-5606, LPS-2, Barf Bags etc) $4.00
$203 / HR
Rotables: $64400.00 / 1600HR TBO = $40.25 / HR
Maint: $14550.00 / 250HRs = $58.20 / HRTotal:$301.45 / HR

The last two items include propeller and float maintenance which will remain. Engine overhaul (a major component of Rotables) must be compared to battery and electric motor maintenance which should be less than $50k per TBO (1000-1600 HRS).
So the correct metric to compare should be the consumables.

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