Largest Electric Airplane Takes Flight

Yesterday, a Cessna C208 Caravan lifted off from the AeroTEC Flight Test Center at the Grant County International Airport (MWH) in Moses Lake, Washington, being pulled aloft by a magniX 500 electric motor.  The  750-horsepower (560 kW) magni500 propulsion system is the largest to fly so far, and seemed to pull the ten-passenger craft easily, lifting off early and establishing a stable rate of climb.

At last year‘s Paris Air Show, Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, guided visitors through the promising features of his firm’s two motors and its magniDrive inverter/motor controller.  All three products, as shown in the video, have found homes on retrofitted and new airframes.

Thursday’s flight went well.  Ganzarski told reporters, “The flight went as I like all flights to go, uneventful. There [were] no issues — it worked exactly as planned, in fact performed a little better than planned. We landed with more battery than expected and the pilot really performed greatly.”

There are compromises involved, though.  A turbine-powered Caravan, as reported in Business Insider, has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), which because of the lower density of lithium batteries compared to Jet-A, would be reduced to 160 kilometers (99 miles). This means shorter routes and/or fewer passengers per flight.  The obvious need for better batteries is all too apparent. 

Roei Ganzarski addresses some of these issues in this presentation.

It would be nice to think our electric aircraft are progressing rapidly to new peaks of achievement, but often it seems as though we’re struggling to reach endless plateaus.  Your editor gave his first symposium talk 11 years ago, and was asked at the time to include motors up to 100 horsepower.  Only a few at that time were close to that output level.  It took a few years until the Green Flight Challenge saw Pipistrel bring the G4 with its 150-kilowatt (201hp.) being the most powerful electric motor to fly at the time.  Siemens unveiled a 260-kilowatt (350-hp.) unit in 2015, able to power an aerobatic plane that could tow a sailplane to altitude with great alacrity.  Now we have magniX’s 560 kilowatts (750 hp.), able to haul large loads for short distances.

Cost and maintenance savings will draw operators, but for now they will have to be clever with applications, routes and strategies.

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