Updated: Mar 12
Written by Dillon Shah. Interview performed by Célian Génier
PARIS, FRANCE (17 June 2019): The Paris Air Show began with a number of new aircraft orders driven by the launch of Airbus’ new, A321XLR, the longest range variant of the A320 family of NEO aircraft. But while the industry continues to see developments in aircraft range and efficiency, one area has not fully been discovered: Electric flying.
MagniX is one of only a few companies which see potential in the electric aviation market. AeroNewsX decided to take a look at whether electric flying could be not only financially viable, but also possible within the near future.
MagniX is a company specialized in powering new and existing commercial aircraft electrically. Using its state-of-the-art motors, magniX is a leader within its domain. We spoke to CEO, Roei Ganzarski, to see what he had in mind for the future of the aviation industry.
MagniX recently announced a partnership with seaplane operator, Harbour Air. While you may not have heard of magniX before, they are becoming a major player within the future of Harbour Air – in fact, thanks to magniX’s services, in under 10 years, Harbour Air is set to become an electric-only airline – a first in the industry.
MagniX’s electric propulsion motors are set to open up new opportunities for passengers, airlines and airports alike.
Thanks to the lower fuel costs and maintenance expenses, airlines will be able to offer much cheaper fares. Ganzarski explained, “When it’s a high cost to operate, the ticket price is high. That means, less people can fly. Harbour Air will be able to lower their ticket price significantly, because, to operate an electric plane, it’s 60-80% cheaper than a traditional plane. So when they can save costs, 60-80% per every flight hour, that means they can offer tickets cheaper – offer cheaper tickets means more people can fly when before they had to drive or not go anywhere: now they can fly.”
The aviation industry has been through many different time periods, such as the jet age among others. What’s to come is yet to be decided, but when asked what he thought, Mr Ganzarski had a clear ambition.
When asked if electric was the next era in the aviation industry, Ganzarski was adamant that it was.
“We believe so. Specifically though focused on, what we call, middle-mile flying. So flights between 50 miles and 1000 miles. For shorter than 50 miles, people can drive, take the train, take the subway. Longer than 1000 miles, aviation today is pretty good, it’s efficient, costs relatively low and there’s no alternative. But for the middle mile, the next-generation is all-electric because it allows you to fly to a lot of small airports that today the big planes can’t fly or won’t fly because it’s too expensive, and it does so with no emissions – very clean.”
The Harbour Air Partnership
MagniX and Harbour Air recently announced a partnership that would see the latter become an electric-only airline. Harbour Air is a seaplane operator based in North America and primarily operates a fleet of De Havilland Canada aircraft.
The new partnership is part of a project which sees current turboprops being retrofitted with magniX’s electric propulsion systems, thus allowing the given aircraft to run on electricity.
"In terms of an environmental impact, it will be zero emissions. Today, everyone’s already aware of the environmental impact that we as humans are having on the world. About 4% of CO2 and greenhouse gases are created by airplanes. In North America, that’s 12%, that includes Canada. And so, by having an all-electric airline, like Harbour Air, zero emissions and it’s good for the environment. Right now, the traditional airlines, that includes Harbour Air, use a lot of fuel in order to operate. They also need a lot of maintenance on their engines. That’s a very high cost – When it’s a high cost to operate, the ticket price is high. That means, less people can fly. Harbour Air will be able to lower their ticket price significantly, because, to operate an electric plane, it’s 60-80% cheaper than a traditional plane. So when they can save costs, 60-80% per every flight hour, that means they can offer tickets cheaper – offer cheaper tickets means more people can fly when before they had to drive or not go anywhere: now they can fly. So that’s what sets the standard for the next middle mile airline. It’s a low cost to operate, low ticket prices and very environmentally clean.”
While the environment remains a key factor when choosing to switch to electrically-powered motors, there’s more. As mentioned above, Harbour Air will see a drastic reduce in the price it pays to operate its flights.
Ganzarski elaborated, “60-80%, so for example, for a one hundred mile flight in a Harbour Air aircraft, they spend about 400 dollars in fuel. They will only spend 8-12 dollars in electricity. So you see, from 400 dollars down to 8-12 – a very significant drop in fuel price. The same [kind of drop will also be seen] on maintenance, because very little maintenance is needed for an electric aircraft.”
In only three years, Harbour Air is expected to roll out its first all-electric aircraft thanks to magniX’s state-of-the-art motors.
“So we are having our first flight with Harbour Air in November of this year, November 2019, and we expect to get certified by the end of 2021, so by 2022, in three years from now, you’ll be able to buy a ticket on Harbour Air and fly all-electric.”
The Eviation Alice
Named Alice, this aircraft was designed by Eviation which is powered exclusively by electric motors. MagniX engines are fitted on the plane. The aircraft was on display at the Paris Air Show this year.
Roei Ganzarski said, “It’s huge. It really fits the standard, at a new level, so we’re setting the standard for what electric propulsion looks like: motors, how they can be used, what it does for efficiency, both for retrofit airplanes like Harbour Air [operates] and for new airplanes like Eviation [Alice]. The Eviation Alice also sets the standard for what airplanes will look like in the future not just electric, but in general, airplanes. The quality of the work that they have, the technology that they have in there and the fact that its electric, sets a new standard for how transportation will fly also in this middle mile – it’s the same target as we are, 50 miles to 1000 miles in flight.”
Could 4 Engined-Aircraft Return To The Skies?
To begin with, magniX believe that looking at the current technology available and in creation, aircraft with over 30 seats cannot be powered with only two electric engines: “Right now, with our current motors, our focus is aircraft up to 19 seats. We are continuing now to work on the technology of the next generation motors that can work on larger aircraft. With that said, if there’s a new design of an aircraft that maybe can take 30 seats, that has multiple motors like ours, like the 750 horsepower, maybe 4 of them, then it could be [possible]. But right now, the work is with companies and operators with aircraft with up to 19 seats.”
In Development – Even Better
When asked about their future plans, Ganzarski was declined to comment. However, he did comment on the Magni 1000, a motor currently in development with an expected horsepower of 1500.
“We continue to work on larger motors – so I can tell you we’re working already on the Magni 1000, which has 1500 horsepower. This means, you can power aircraft even bigger, or put them as part of a hybrid solution, for a much larger aircraft. Then you can do 30, 40, 50 passengers.”
MagniX hopes to have the new Magni 1000 fitted on both retrofit and new aircraft.
Ganzarski Urges Bombardier & Embraer To Focus On Electrically-Powered Aircraft
When asked about which manufacturers should invest further into the electrically-powered aircraft market, the CEO believes the more the merrier.
“Well first of all, everybody should focus more on electrically powered aircraft. Using our propulsion system,” he joked, “but right now, there’s two segments we should focus on. One, are the manufacturers of aircraft and operators of aircraft that work in the middle. So these are planes, that are already propeller planes flying these distances, so they should look at turning their planes electric.”
Examples include, “Cessna, Piper, Codiac, Pilatus, so, they [in other words, their aircraft] already fly these small distances. They should look at using the same propeller [as Harbour Air will use] and instead of using gas and creating emissions, to do clean electric. The second group that should look at it are larger manufacturers, Bombardier, Embraer etc. Not because they should do electric now, but because they should look at how can they have their own customers use their airplanes for longer range and then have electric do shorter range.
Why Electric Is The Way To Go
Not only is the MagniX more environmentally friendly and much cheaper to run, it also features a number of improved technical aspects over fuel-powered engines. “It’s smaller and lighter. A traditional gas engine which is about 3 times that size, for the same power, will be 30% efficient, this is 95% efficient. So much more efficient, much smaller size, much lighter weight.”
The Paris Air Show is one of a kind and nothing says unique like a brand new, electrically-powered aircraft. As Harbour Air begins its quick retrofit to an all-electric airline, things are looking good; Many complain about the amount of pollution the aviation industry produces each year but that could soon be a thing of the past when more and more airlines realise the benefits of electrically-powered aircraft.
AeroNewsX would like to thank the team at magniX for making this article possible. Interviewer: AeroNewsX Photographer, Célian Génier on behalf of the editors team, written by Dillon Shah.