Planes emit massive quantities of environmentally harmful hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, lead, and black carbon. The global aviation industry produces around 2% of all human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and is responsible for 12% of CO2 emissions emitted by transport. Despite significant improvements in fuel efficiency through aircraft technology and operational management, these improvements are being continuously eclipsed by the increase in air traffic volume.
Nevertheless, the future of aviation is destined to become greener. Yesterday, the maiden flight of the first fully electric plane, designed to cover small commercial routes, was a success. This is the important result achieved by magniX and AeroTEC, companies specialized in electric aviation and aerospace testing. A fully electric-powered Cessna Grand Caravan 208B remained airborne for more than 30 minutes. Renamed eCaravan, the aircraft is powered by a 750 hp magni500 propulsion system, about 560 kW. It can accommodate up to a maximum of 9 people and will be designed for short commercial connections. The test flight took place from the AeroTEC Flight Test Center at Grant County International Airport in Washington State.
The company also provided propulsion systems for a six-seater all-electric plane flown for the first time in December. Operator Harbour Air called the inaugural flight "the first step in becoming the world’s first all-electric commercial fleet" after the plane flew for about 15 minutes after taking off from Vancouver, Canada. In June 2019, magniX CEO Roei Ganzarski told AeroNewsX in an interview: "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."
It's an ambitious project and magniX is not the only player in the electric aviation sector. A few companies, including Uber, have promised a not-so-distant future of electric air taxis. Others are also developing both electric motors and the airframes to use them. Lilium, Embraer, Ampaire, and Pipistrel are forging ahead with plans to go all-electric, along with NASA, which is testing its first experimental electric X-57 Maxwell.
Observers of the 30-minute eCaravan test flight say they could barely hear any noise from the plane. The much smaller, fuel-engine powered Cessna chase plane accompanying the test plane made far more noise, observers said.
For decades, the Caravan has been the standard for transporting people and goods on short routes. The eCaravan's first flight is another step towards operating these aircraft at a fraction of the current cost, with zero emissions, from small airports.