Today, zero-emission flight is closer to reality than ever. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion is rapidly revolutionising mobility technologies across industries, from automotive to marine. And the aviation industry is no exception.
According with Microsoft News, the world’s largest all-electric aircraft completed its first successful flight on Thursday. The Cessna Caravan aircraft is retrofitted with an electric engine and flew for about 290km before landing safely in Moses Lake.
The plane holds a seating capacity of nine passengers. However, for the maiden flight, there was only the test pilot present. The aircraft can cruise at 183kmph and its makers, magniX hopes that it could enter commercial service by the end of 2021 with a range of 100 miles.
Ahead of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation sector was one of the leading contributors to carbon emissions around the world. In light of the same, a slew of companies has taken up building electric planes. One of the biggest obstacles that stand in the way is the challenge of building lightweight batteries that can be accommodated in large planes.
By retrofitting an existing plane, magniX hopes to accelerate the process of approval in the industry that is otherwise heavily regulated to ensure safety. In similar news, a smaller seaplane powered by a magniX-engine completed a short flight in December.
The Cessna Caravan used to build the aircraft is one of the most used medium-range planes, with more than 2,600 operating in over 100 countries.
Roei Ganzarski, the CEO of magniX, said current aeroplanes were both expensive to operate and very polluting. “Electric airplanes will be 40%-70% lower cost to operate per flight hour,” he said. “That means operators will be able to fly more planes into smaller airports, meaning a shorter and door-to-door experience, with no harmful CO2 emissions.”
Ganzarski said the company believed all flights of less than 1,000 miles would be completely electric in 15 years’ time. But he said: “Battery [energy] density is not where we would like to see it. While it is good for ultra-short flights of 100 miles on a retrofit aircraft and over 500 miles on a new design aircraft like the Alice, there is plenty of untapped potential in batteries. Now that the first commercial aircraft has flown all-electric, battery companies are starting to work more diligently on aerospace-ready battery solutions.”