In a lot of ways, airplanes represent one of the worst possible use cases for electric motors and batteries. Batteries are heavy, and aircraft tend to operate in a steady state at fixed RPMs for long periods, not a recipe for efficiency where EVs are concerned.
That's not going to stop Harbour Air from retrofitting its short-hop seaplane fleet with electric drivetrains from a company called MagniX, Green Car Reports said Sunday. The MagniX system will, in some cases, be replacing internal combustion engines that are well over 50 years old.
The upgraded planes will have 200 kilowatt-hour batteries, and their Magni500 electric motors will produce 750 horsepower and around 2,075 foot-pounds of torque. This would give the aircraft an estimated flight time of 30 minutes with 30 additional minutes of reserve.
If that doesn't sound like much, it isn't. These seaplanes, however, spend much of their time doing short flights from Vancouver, British Columbia, to nearby outlying islands for which the 30-minute flight time should be plenty. The company estimates that those short hops represent 70% of its 30,000 flights annually.
Harbour Air currently operates 42 planes in Vancouver and Seattle. Green Car Reports says the goal is to eventually retrofit the entire fleet of planes with electric drivetrains, starting first with the single-engine airplanes like its de Havilland Beavers and finally, when flight time can be extended, tackle the retrofit of its longer-range de Havilland Twin Otters that are used for the flight between Vancouver and Seattle.
Once the changeover is complete, Harbour Air will become the world's first fully electric airline. The company also claims to have been the world's first airline to go carbon-neutral in 2007 thanks to its program of purchasing carbon offset credits.
Harbour Air didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.