Harbour Air to add zero-emission electric plane; aims to convert whole fleet

From The Vancouver Sun

Somebody check me here, but doesn’t this seem like a whooooolllllleeeee lot of wishful thinking?~ctm

A B.C. airline and a Seattle-area engine maker say they’ve found a quicker route to electrification by converting a small bush plane with batteries and an electric motor

Jeff Bell, Victoria Times Colonist

Updated: March 26, 2019

A transition from seaplane to e-plane is set to begin.

Harbour Air is embarking on what is believed to be a world first, adding an electric plane to its fleet — a zero-emission aircraft powered by a 750-horsepower electric motor.

The company has 42 planes and 12 routes, and operates from centres such as Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle. It is North America’s largest seaplane airline, serving 500,000 passengers on 30,000 commercial flights every year.

“The intent is to eventually convert the whole fleet,” said Harbour Air’s founder and CEO. Greg McDougall. of the move to electric planes. “It would be a staged situation because the range of the (electric) aircraft presently, with the present battery capacity, would be around a half an hour with a half-an-hour reserve.

“But that’s changing very rapidly with the development of the battery technology.”

The first plane to be converted will be the six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver, which is used across Harbour Air routes.

“The first one would be a prototype, which is basically proving the technology for Transport Canada and getting toward certification,” McDougall said.

Harbour Air is taking on the electric-plane venture with Washington state’s magniX — a company specializing in creating electric propulsion for air travel. The partners anticipate conducting the first flight tests in November.

Harbour Air is embarking on what is believed to be a world first, adding an electric plane to its fleet — a zero-emission aircraft powered by a 750-horsepower electric motor. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Harbour Air is embarking on what is believed to be a world first, adding an electric plane to its fleet — a zero-emission aircraft powered by a 750-horsepower electric motor. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

McDougall said nobody has ever flown a fully electric commercial flight.

“If you think about it, it’s the evolution of transportation toward electric propulsion,” he said. “The internal combustion engine is all but obsolete, really, for future development.

Full story here.


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Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 10:09 am

““But that’s changing very rapidly with the development of the battery technology.”

What advances are those? A fossil fuel plane can be fueled and turned around in less than a hour. Can those “new” batteries be recharged to full capacity in less than a hour? How many recharge cycles can they stand?

““The first one would be a prototype,”

In other words they have absolutely no idea how it will work! But it’s going to save us from global warming!

Louis Hooffstetter
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 10:46 am

I applaud people for trying to innovate and develop better technologies. I hope this works but I wouldn’t put my money on it.

And as for “The internal combustion engine is all but obsolete, really, for future development.”

Why is it that just when mankind perfects a technology like the internal combustion engine, people want to scrap it for something less reliable, and less efficient?

Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
March 30, 2019 11:26 am

a zero-emission aircraft powered by a 750-horsepower electric motor.

Do they even stop to think before spending such a lot of time and money on a project? In what way is an electric motor “zero-emission” ?? Are they collecting lightning bolts or rubbing a rabbit skin on a nylon rod?

Electricity is a storage medium, NOT a source of energy. There is not such thing as “zero-emission” energy.

Reply to  Greg
March 30, 2019 11:30 am

“If you think about it… ” . Which obviously he did not !

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  Greg
March 30, 2019 12:21 pm

He was concentrating on being ready for Earth Hour tonight ?
So couldn’t think of anything else .

Reply to  Greg
March 30, 2019 12:31 pm

First commercial aircraft powered by coal and natural gas

Reply to  Catcracking
March 30, 2019 5:29 pm

Is it just me or does the plane in the pic forecast an empty battery dive into the water..?

Reply to  Catcracking
March 31, 2019 8:59 pm

I can see it clearly now, with the successive dumbing down of education and the general lack of knowledge about the real world , they’ll have no shortage of test pilots as these things drive themselves into the ground with each full-weight landing.

Older, wiser folk can be ignored, they’re ‘negative’ – so progressively younger and younger ‘engineer science’ graduates (that’ll be a thing, mark my words) will screw their eyes tighter and tighter and wish harder and harder to pull it off as they use successively older and older aircraft since all the functional ones will have gone elsewhere, they’ll be forced to raid museums for planes..

Meanwhile young idealist dipsies will line up for their Instagram moment of fame as their reality TV test pilot careers begin (and end).

In the distance if you strain you’ll hear old folk shouting ‘it’s the weight, stupids!’

Reply to  Greg
March 30, 2019 1:31 pm

In 2017, Alaska’s electricity came 43% from natural gas, 25% from hydro, 15% from diesel, 9% from coal and 4% from wind and biomass. The only new coal power plant built anywhere in the US was completed in Alaska in 2018. See http://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=AK. Thus electric aircraft in Alaska will hardly be zero emission. Indeed, I suspect the electric power systems in many of the out-of-the-way places Harbour Air serves are powered by diesel. If a competent engineer runs the numbers, it may turn out that the electric aircraft is responsible for more emissions than the conventional one due to the energy inefficiencies of the overall electric power system.

John Tillman
Reply to  DHR
March 30, 2019 2:06 pm

Harbour Air doesn’t fly to Alaska.

It covers Vancouver Island, the mainland coast of BC and WA opposite and Puget Sound only as far south as Seattle.


Its AO is one of the most hydropowered areas on the planet.

John Tillman
Reply to  DHR
March 30, 2019 2:20 pm

Seattle City Light’s mix of electrical power sources are 88% hydroelectric, 5% nuclear, 4% wind, 1% coal, 1% natural gas, 1% biogas.

Puget Sound Energy however relies some 37% on coal, but it serves areas outside Seattle.

Dan Davis
Reply to  DHR
March 30, 2019 2:36 pm

Harbour Air just Might be able to fly electric from Victoria on Vancouver Island down across the Straight to Port Angeles in Washington. We’ll see. It’s obviously a Big Virtue Signal from Harbour Air to show the Greens that are always aghast & against flying a reliable gasoline powered seaplane from Victoria Harbour.
I’ve flown via Kenmore Air from Victoria down to Seattle in a safe, reliable AvGas fueled Beaver and it works GREAT! They will still be flying the same GREAT aircraft many years from now, I predict, because there will be NO revolutionary battery technology to change the status of Commercial Aviation in the next few decades.
Fossil Fuels RULE!

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  DHR
March 30, 2019 3:22 pm

Hydro electricity powered aircraft based out of Burnard Inlet is a great idea.

A 750 hp electric motor can be inspected every 250 hrs in a few minutes. Try that with a turboprop. A complete teardown every 1000 will take a couple of hrs. They that with a supercharged flat six.

The cost of operating a an electric aircraft will be a fraction of the current offerings.

Reply to  DHR
April 1, 2019 8:24 am

Crispin sez:
A 750 hp electric motor can be inspected every 250 hrs in a few minutes.

Not sure a 750 hp electric motor has ever run for any significant amount of time on batteries. And that motor would be really heavy (battery weight not included).

Tim Gorman
Reply to  beng135
April 1, 2019 9:51 am

Beng, you can’t inspect a DC motor in a few minutes. You have to take it apart far enough to check the commutators for wear, the mechanical brushes or solid-state equivalent for wear and/or signs of heat damage, and to check the bearing surfaces for wear.

People who think electric motors are simple with one or two moving parts have never worked with an electric motor, not even in an old “slot car” kids used to race.

Reply to  DHR
April 1, 2019 6:22 pm


and not just the bearing surfaces, the shaft may slowly go away too.

(I think there was a nuke plant in Florida that had this repeated problem)

Reply to  Greg
March 31, 2019 1:43 am

“rubbing a rabbit skin on a nylon rod”

i prefer cat skin, with the cat still in it, but instead of rubbing i give it a good flogging.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Greg
March 31, 2019 5:07 am

Thanks for stating the obvious Gre, because many people seem to forget it.

I would suggest Harbour Air is not long of this world. The leaders of the company are putting ideology before business.

old construction worker
Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
March 31, 2019 8:48 am

Knowing their profits are going down hill they trying to pull a Solyndra. They are looking for government subsidies.

Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
March 31, 2019 2:50 pm

I doubt that will meet FAA or the Canadian equivalent for operational requirements to carry passengers. A review of a thorough analysis of electric aircraft written by an industry opinion maker is available at https://leehamnews.com/?s=electric+aircraft&submit=Go

Jake J
Reply to  Greg
March 31, 2019 10:16 am

I presume that these are the planes that fly between Seattle and the San Juans. All of the electricity there comes from hydroelectric generators. So, in this instance, the flights would be emissions-free.

John Tillman
Reply to  Jake J
March 31, 2019 1:48 pm

Harbour doesn’t have regularly scheduled service to the San Juans, but does to and from the Gulf Islands:


michael hart
Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
March 30, 2019 2:23 pm

“I hope this works but I wouldn’t put my money on it.”

Nor would I put my body on such a flight. I want every plane I fly on to have a minimum safety margin of spare fuel. Who would get on a plane knowing that it might only have a few minutes extra flying time than that calculated as necessary for even a short flight? Certainly not me.

Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
March 30, 2019 2:59 pm

So, how long will it take for them to wind it up and how many rubber bands will that require?

Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
March 30, 2019 4:14 pm

Because players, at that point, are set. And it’s hard to break into the market and make money. So best to try to force the existing, efficient, perfected technology to the sideline and enter with $NEWSTUFF that you can hopefully lead the world in, and make billions.

All the better if you can use Government to force the obsolescence plan…

Charles Higley
Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
March 30, 2019 5:51 pm

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are so pleased that you chose to travel in our new, innovative, all-electric airplane. That said, as it is cold outside today, there will be not heat in the plane, no lights or any other services, to protect our reserve battery power.”

20 minutes later: “Ladies and gentlemen, due to bad weather conditions at our planned destination, we have been diverted to an alternate airport, which is 30 minutes away at this point. Normally, we would have the reserve to get there, but somebody left the light on in the bathroom and we will not make it. Please lean over, grab your ankles, and kiss your ass goodbye. Thank you for flying with us.”

Anybody every notice that our current passenger fleet ALWAYS has lots of reserve air time (fuel) to cover emergencies?

Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
Reply to  Charles Higley
March 30, 2019 6:36 pm

“Please lean over, grab your ankles, and kiss your ass goodbye. Thank you for flying with us.

We know that you have a choice when deciding who to fly with…and it looks like you made the wrong one today.”

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Charles Higley
March 31, 2019 9:06 pm

The good news is that these are sea planes, and most of their routes are over/near water. So they can usually find a place to land. Don’t know how they do with big waves though.

kate michaels
Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
March 30, 2019 6:28 pm

Well, the same thing happened with steam engines. They reached a high degree of sophistication relative to their origins, but the tech. was dumped as internal combustion took over. Its now mostly lostech: we now -dont know- completely how pinnacle steam tech worked.

Moreover, this has happened a number of times in history with replaced technology. The difference we see here is that combustion engines are being forced unnaturally into obsolescence before replacement renewable tech is ready. Previous transitions have occured over time as a result of market forces.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  kate michaels
March 31, 2019 9:13 pm

Aircraft carriers and boomers use steam turbines. Electric batteries and DC motors are not new technology. My great-grandmother drove an electric car a century ago. They are great for fork lifts and golf carts. Airplanes, not so much. Airplanes are great with gas turbines, so are peakers. But they haven’t worked in cars and trucks.

It is a question of fitness for purpose.

Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
March 30, 2019 8:50 pm

There will be nuclear fusion planes before there will be battery powered planes.

Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
April 3, 2019 8:04 am

Because it is neither less reliable nor less efficient. Current light aircraft, like the seaplane in the photo, are generally running with 1960s vintage Lycoming engines because the FAA certification process for a new engine is too expensive for the market to sustain.

I’m an electrical engineer by training. The IEEE Spectrum, an international journal aimed at a non-specialist audience, did a cover article on the potential for electric aircraft a couple of years ago. The target market was two-seat trainers like the ubiquitous Cessna 152. Due to advances in motor (largely magnet) technology, electric motors designed specifically for the speed range needed for direct drive of the propeller (no transmission) are about 95% efficient. The motor in the test plane I read about weighs 20kg (44 lb), 10cm deep and 30cm diameter. An equivalent ICE weighs 140 kg and measures 120 x 90 x 90 cm. The electric motor generates 3 HP/lb vs. 2 for Lycoming engines, and avoids the weight of transmission and exhaust as well. Furthermore, the electric can regenerate some power on descent, reducing battery consumption 13% in typical 1-hr training flights. Fuel cost for an hour’s instruction: $3 of electricity vs. $40 in avgas. With only 1 moving part in the motor, maintenance will be far less expensive as well.


Tim Gorman
Reply to  DiogenesNJ
April 3, 2019 3:52 pm

Diogenes, you compare the weights of the motors but neglect to compare the weight of the fuel vs the weight of the batteries to drive the electric motor. As mentioned many times, the landing weight of the plane with the electric motor and attached batteries will be far higher than the landing weight of the plane with an IC engine and reserve gas. The wear and tear on all parts of the airplane frame and components will be far higher with the fixed weight of the electric motor and attached batteries. The maintenance cost of the airplane and the shortened life of the airplane will probably far offset the difference in the cost of the av gas.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 10:59 am

And were will that wonderful battery juice come from?

These people act like the electricity to the battery will be supplied by the forward propeller.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 11:09 am

What happens if the batteries catch fire in flight?

E J Zuiderwijk
Reply to  MarkW
March 30, 2019 11:22 am

It will come as a shock.

Steven Fraser
Reply to  E J Zuiderwijk
March 30, 2019 1:20 pm

And they may not make it ‘Ohm.

Reply to  Steven Fraser
March 30, 2019 4:16 pm

I see the current trend in this thread. The potential is easily rectified…

Reply to  Steven Fraser
March 30, 2019 5:41 pm

Icarus, we follow thee!

Bryan A
Reply to  Steven Fraser
March 30, 2019 8:22 pm

Not something to get Amped up over just yet

Ed MacAulay
Reply to  MarkW
March 30, 2019 11:26 am

Since they are seaplanes flying over water, will just glide down and dip the battery!

Reply to  Ed MacAulay
March 30, 2019 3:22 pm

You are suggesting they “dip” lithium batteries?

There’s an instant explosive flameout and short circuit in one.

Reply to  MarkW
March 30, 2019 11:29 am

At least it’s a sea plane so if can just act like a dead duck instead of going down like 737 Max.

Reply to  MarkW
March 30, 2019 11:30 am

The course is renegotiated. The airline’s stock rate plummets. Passengers are refunded post mortem. The batteries will go flat. Passengers might go flat as well.

Reply to  MarkW
March 30, 2019 4:58 pm

“What happens if the batteries catch fire in flight?”

Flight will probably be grounded!

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 11:28 am

It is not the “world’s first”…..

comment image?x31323

Reply to  Latitude
March 31, 2019 4:06 am

and a chap somewhere in WA Aus converted a small plane I gather
wasnt all that wonderful from the clip i saw some time ago
if AOC wanted people to NOT fly then stunts like this would work rather well.

Lee L
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 12:00 pm

‘A fossil fuel plane can be fueled and turned around in less than a hour. Can those “new” batteries be recharged to full capacity in less than a hour?’

Probably not, but you can still fuel and turn around in less than an hour if the thing is designed to allow fast and easy swap out of the discharged battery for one that has been fully charged offline. You may need to increase the overall fleet charge rate by charging a lot of them simultaneously so a proper refill is always available instead of waiting for the one most recently discharged to refill. Think RV with empty 20 lb propane tanks which can be swapped out for full ones at the supermarket exchange.

Properly built batteries and receivers will become known as charge ‘cartridges’ would solve that problem for planes and for cars. In a plane the ‘reserve cartridge’ will be shifted into the non-reserve rotation before its performance degrades substantially. In a car, you can accept the reserve battery degradation until you can’t but it isn’t but running out of fuel won’t cause it to fall from the sky, although people have frozen to death in that situation.

I’m still not thinking it is a good idea but it is not constrained by charge rate. Range is the killer plus it can get pretty damn cold at altitude which means electric heat. Or maybe not. Maybe you just use propane heaters? lol.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Lee L
March 30, 2019 4:40 pm

No one has yet pointed out that *double* the battery capacity will be required to protect against catastrophic failure of the “in-use” battery. Even with “cartridge” type batteries the system will be subject to this requirement, especially since plug-in type equipment is more prone to failure than hardwired equipment. This will add significantly to the weight penalty that must be hauled in both directions.

Keeping an inventory of charged, high capacity, high current batteries on hand is a lot bigger investment than keeping a tank of fuel on hand. Fuel can be replenished on an as-needed basis. Not so with a fixed investment in batteries. You will always have a tension between on-hand battery inventory and charge rate. Higher charge rates mean batteries wear out quicker but save on fixed inventory sitting and producing zero revenue.

I just have my doubts that any technological breakthrough will happen that will make the profit equation for batteries better than for fossil fuels. Profit equals revenue minus expenses. Batteries will always represent a higher expense than fossil fuel, at least for the foreseeable future.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 31, 2019 12:07 pm

Another thought. Liquid fueled aircraft get lighter and more efficient as fuel is burned. The battery will remain the same dead weight from takeoff to landing.

Lee L
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 31, 2019 7:02 pm

Yes I see the point Tom.

However, onsite aviation fuel waiting to fill an empty plane is also inventory . It sits in an expensive tank and has been transported by an expensive pipeline or rail tanker.

The ‘fixed investment in batteries’ is similar to the fixed investment in fuel and tanks both inside the plane and at the fuelling float.(Seaplanes).

Remember, you won’t be needing gas tanks in an electric plane.

But..I too have my doubts. The whole thing kind of smells of government signal virtue grant money.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Lee L
April 1, 2019 5:15 am

Lee, Investment in fuel is not fixed. Fuel is a just in time type of inventory. Battery investment is fixed, the investment has to be made ahead of time and kept current (no pun intended) while earning a return on investment the whole time the asset is owned. Fuel prices can be negotiated over time, battery investment cannot. It’s like the difference between renting a truck to haul a load vs owning a truck to haul loads. As load size decreases and increases you can rent different size trucks to fit the load thus minimizing cost. When you own the truck you must size the truck for the maximum load you might be contracted to carry. Thus your cost is maximized for the whole productive life of the truck and you must earn enough revenue to repay the investment.

John Tillman
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 12:05 pm

If the CEO actually had any develop,ments in mind, they might have been among these:


If plane batteries could be recharged in flight, or even just rapidly on the ground, some of the handicaps of electric power could be overcome.

tsk tsk
Reply to  John Tillman
March 30, 2019 3:25 pm

If they can be recharged in the air, they’re unnecessary.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 31, 2019 1:30 pm

An interim advance in battery tech could be the combo of lithium, sodium and graphene:


Rick C PE
Reply to  John Tillman
March 31, 2019 8:47 pm

They’re going to need some really long extension cords. 😁

John Tillman
Reply to  Rick C PE
April 1, 2019 5:45 pm

Or microwave signals or sound inaudible to humans and any animals liable to be affected. Plus maybe plants and fungi.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 1:05 pm

The useful payload capacity will suffer greatly. Additionally, as we calculate range we account for fuel consumption. Batteries don’t change weight as they discharge (not any that matters).
Heat loading will be different as well. What will they do for cabin heating? Windshield deicing?
There are a lot of ancillary systems that use the “waste heat” generated by the engine.

Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. In the engineering world we call these:
“A bad idea whose time has come.”

meh…give them their 15 minutes of attention. I’d rather have mine whilst not being stupid.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Rocketscientist
March 30, 2019 1:46 pm

Aircraft engine waste heat is mostly wasted in reciprocating engine airplanes. Single engine planes use a shroud around the exhaust pipe for cabin heating, which is why you see little carbon monoxide indicator buttons on the dashboard. Cabin heating for multi-engine recips (Beech Barons to DC-7s) doesn’t come from the air cooled engines, but from combustion heaters. Aircraft windshield deicing is electric.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 1:26 pm

Why would the need to be charged in plane? Just run multiple sets per plane and swap while the passengers are loading/unloading.

John Tillman
Reply to  Traciatim
March 30, 2019 2:07 pm

To extend range without landing.

And to save weight and space from fewer batteries.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 7:59 pm

Even worse, fast-charging virtually all battery technologies reduces their usable life.
So fast-charging (to save money/time) costs money.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 30, 2019 8:41 pm

Maye they got some technology from Mercedes 🙂




Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 31, 2019 12:09 am

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 31, 2019 7:17 am

There are actually quite a few electric and hybrid electric aircraft in development now and for the last half decade, including both commercial aircraft makers as well as the FAA and Airbus. The better bet is hybrid electrics including fuel cell aircraft which can provide equivalent range to conventional internal combustion engines. Several are already flying, and many more are in design development.

Electric power, especially hybrid electric, provides quite a few advantages over conventional powered aircraft, including lower operating costs, and better redundancy (instead of a single prop, or two, an electric aircraft can feature many smaller props, such that if one fails, it is literally no big deal), and much lower noise emissions (a big deal).

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Duane
March 31, 2019 9:41 am

Duane: I cannot find anything on the internet about any current hybrid electric aircraft being in production. Flight tests done around 2015 by Boeing and others showed that the maximum takeoff weight for such an aircraft was about 1000lb using current battery technology. Adding more battery capacity was a losing proposition. I don’t think anything has changed since then.

The more propellers you add the more you increase maintenance costs, thus operating costs go up and not down. The lift provided by a propeller is based on the volume of wind it provides and thus the wind speed it generates over the wing. Smaller propellers would require more “bite” (angle of attack) from the propeller to move the equivalent amount of air at the same speed as a larger propeller. This means more power must be applied to move the propeller (or higher speeds on the propeller which also takes more power). And this doesn’t even begin to address the problems with turbulence caused by multiple air streams over the same wing from multiple smaller propellers.

I simply don’t agree that hybrid electric power provides quite a few advantages over conventional powered aircraft. The concept may sound good but the engineering problems associated with the concept are legion.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
April 1, 2019 5:45 am

Electric motors are vastly simpler mechanisms than internal combustion engines, and vastly more energy efficient too. An electric motor has exactly one moving part, while IC engines, whether piston or turbine, consist of hundreds of moving parts, all trying to fly apart and fail at the worst possible time to kill you.

As for specifics,you didn’t look at all, for if you did a Google search or Bing search on “hybrid electric aircraft” in milliseconds you’d have gotten over 6 million results. Examples include:


https://www.flyingmag.com/hybrid-electric-aircraft-motor-powers-up (Pipestrel is a significant manufacturer of aircraft in Europe).


Also, Rolls Royce is working on hybrid electrics, as is Airbus:


Electric aircraft and hybrid electric aircraft already exist and are flying now. They will eventually take over the short haul commercial transport world, and potentially even the long haul world.

Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 11:29 am

Read all the others, and gazillions more in any google search of the topic.

The world’s largest aircraft manufacturers (Boeing, Airbus) are developing new electric aircraft including airliners, both all battery and hybrid electric, and major light aircraft manufacturers are doing the same. Major industrial partners include Siemens which is building a wide range of electric aircraft motors that are far lighter than equivalent powered IC engines.

Some of the companies that have already designed, built and flown hybrid electrics include Diamond, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of light trainers and high performance personal aviation aircraft, as well as Pipestrel, one of the largest developers of training aircraft.

You guys just aren’t keeping up! This is real, and it has been going on for at least the last decade.

One manufacturer team consists of Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens, who are jointly developing the E-fan X hybrid electric airliner, for which a demonstrator is slated to begin flying next year. A small hybrid backed by Boeing conducted flight testing last year. DARPA is also developing a hybrid-electric aircraft with 24 small electrically powered ducted fans. Uber is also developing a VTOL hybrid electric aircraft for point to point air service within congested urban areas.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
April 1, 2019 7:13 am

You obviously didn’t look very hard.

There are lots of companies, including the biggest aerospace companies in the world, as well as small aircraft makers engaged in designing and building and certifying hybrid electric aircraft. Just Google it and you’ll get at least 6 million hits.

Here is a recent article from Aviation Week about just one of them:


Others include:





Tim Gorman
Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 9:45 am

Duane, from the first site you give:

“Many of the vehicle concepts under study for the coming wave of urban air mobility (UAM) are the size of today’s small helicopters, so it is perhaps no surprise that major propulsion players in the current vertical-lift market are laying out plans to compete for this next big opportunity. ”

There is nothing here about anything actually being in production. “Concepts under study” is meaningless when it comes to actual timelines for commercial introduction!

Reply to  Tim Gorman
April 1, 2019 7:18 am

Multi-prop electric motors is indeed the way to go … electric motors are vastly simpler, and therefore safer mechanisms than internal combustion aircraft engines, whether piston or turbine. An electric motor has exactly one moving part, vs. hundreds of moving parts all of which can and occasionally do fail in IC engines.

Controlling a twin engine aircraft with one failed engine is one of the most difficult challenges in aviation, and loss of control with one engine out is one of the leading causes of aviation accidents. With half a dozen or a dozen small electric props or fans, the loss of any single one has no effect on the controlability of the aircraft.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 9:39 am

I’m not sure you understand electric motors very well. An electric motor run from DC power requires all kinds of extra equipment to make the motor run, e.g. a commutator and brushes. Another option would be an inverter to take the DC and convert it to AC but you are talking *big* time cost, weight, and expense for an inverter needed to run an aircraft engine! If you use a split-ring commutator and brushes then each of those would have to be checked on a regular basis to see if they are within operating tolerances. The more of them you use the higher the cost to tear them all down on a regular basis for maintenance, and that cost includes downtime where the plain would be producing no revenue. In a DC motor with a mechanical commutator and brushes the battery is hit with a short every time the armature completes a half rotation when the brushes are flipping the current direction. That is *not* good for any kind of battery where long life is expected. If you are doing solid state controls instead of brushes then you are again talking *heavy* duty equipment to handle the field current necessary for a high horsepower motor. None of this even addresses the needs for bearing surfaces being oiled at each end of the armature to prevent wear or the means keeping the armature clean of dirt and contaminants over a long period of time.

It’s just not as simple as it sounds. I suspect that is one reason Boeing found out that with current technology there is definitely a weight limit on usability. It’s one thing to show viability on a one-time experimental flight. It’s a far different thing when you are talking commercial service over a 20-40 year lifetime.

Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 11:32 am

I understand exactly how electric powerplants run – I’m an engineer, with education and experience with nuclear power plants as well as civil and environmental engineering.

The numbers I am quoting are real. Just spend some time researching the topic and you’ll see that electric aircraft are multiplying like bunnies, and it’s not some crazy inventors operating out of their garages but the world’s largest makers of airliners and personal aircraft, teaming up with major industrial powers like Siemens.

They exist. They fly. They are practical, and they will soon take over aviation.

This is not the future – this is today.

Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 6:43 am

If they are indeed sticking with the 750 hp version motor, just the batteries for a 1 hr flight will weigh in the neighborhood of 2200 lbs. Add motor, prop, and controllers (400 lb at least). Total power system weight 2600+ lb. The radial Beaver engine, and fuel for several hours, weigh approx. 1300 lbs. That is a lot of disadvantage to overcome, not to mention cabin heat, anti-ice (if so equipped), etc etc.

Longer nose with the electric will require modified vertical and possibly horizontal stabilizers.

No room there for payload. I don’t think this is ready for prime-time yet. But we’ll see! The maintenance cost, at least for the motor, will be significantly lower than those old radials.

Reply to  MattB
April 1, 2019 7:15 am

Boeing and Airbus and Siemens are actually working on the design and development of regional airliners, much bigger than this seaplane, using a combination of hybrid electric and all electric power. They foresee eventually the use of long haul airliners powered by hybrid electrics.

Reply to  MattB
April 1, 2019 7:31 am

Actually, the radial engined 450-hp Beaver has an engine weight of 640 pounds plus 1,203 pounds of fuel, for a total engine-fuel weight of 1,843 pounds.

Electric motors do NOT require longer noses, indeed, shorter nose length is available – current generation Siemens electric motors are very small, much smaller than any IC engine, and much lighter weight too.

Check out the Siemens electric aircraft motor already in production at https://newatlas.com/siemens-world-record-electric-motor-aircraft/37048/

This tiny motor puts out 348 horsepower yet weighs only 110 pounds – about 1/6th the weight of the Wasp 450 hp engine that is standard on the Beaver. That means that a Beaver could feature up to 1,700 pounds in a battery pack and still weigh no more than the standard engine and full fuel tanks on a Beaver.

Instead of an all electric seaplane a better bet would be a hybrid electric model, combining a small very efficient IC powered generator and smaller battery pack that would produce equivalent range to the existing IC powered beaver … but would be far less noisy, and cost far less to operate.

The single biggest hourly operating expense of any IC powered aircraft is the hydrocarbon fuel that it consumes.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 9:43 am

The fossil fuel engine will land missing those 1200 lbs of fuel. The battery powered one will land with the full load. The wear and tear on the plane from full-load landing will soon eat up any savings you might see from the smaller electric motor. Tires, shocks, air frame, structural components will all see shortened lives.

Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 10:29 am

I was not planning full fuel for the conventional IC Beaver. My estimate stands. You have grossly underestimated the battery and systems weight (controllers, cooling). I know of what I speak…the large well-known aerospace company for which I do engineering is developing both “pure” electric and hybrid propulsion systems for a variety of applications.

Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 11:36 am

Aircraft are always required to be certified at max takeoff weight, so there is no issue with landing with or without the full fuel load.

There is no wear and tear on a electric motor that is not 10,000 times worse on any IC engine.

Dude – aren’t you getting it? There is only ONE moving part in an electric motor, vs. hundreds in any IC engine. And that electric motor is NOT subjected to intense, prolonged heat and variable stresses as is any IC engine component. No valves, no camshafts, no pistons, no piston rods, no crankshafts, no multi-wheeled compressors with hot sections .. none, zip, nada.

Electric motors are and always have been the world’s most long lasting and reliable technology to provide motive power.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 5:49 pm

Duane, take-off weight is *not* the same as landing weight when it comes to stress on every system in the airplane. Landing is *much* more stressful to every component in the airplane, from door latches to shock absorbers!

For the most part the electric motors you speak of as lasting forever are AC motors which do not require some kind of apparatus to act as a commutator so the motor can be spun up. Batteries do not produce AC without some kind of external conditioning apparatus. For the high currents needed for an electric motor producing the power needed for an airplane take-off that external conditioning system would be very expensive.

An electric motor in an airplane would incur all kinds of temperature stresses when moving from the ground to cruising altitude. There would also be variable stresses on the motor as prop speed is varied, especially during landing. This kind of usage is *not* the same as an AC electric motor used to drive an escalator which runs at a constant speed.

As for internal combustion engines, I traded in a Honda Pilot two years ago with 250,000 miles on the engine. It had two timing chain replacements (considered preventative maintenance) and consumable replacements at recommended intervals, i.e. filters, spark plugs, etc. The engine was still going strong. The AC motor driving my air compressor didn’t last that many operating hours!

Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 11:39 am

Dude – these aircraft exist.

Stamp your feet on the ground all day and deny reality, but reality still wins, ever single time. Dozens of electric aircraft are already flying today, and many dozens more are in rapid development to appear in just the next two years. Backed by the very biggest names in aerospace design and engineering and manufacturing.

I mean, if you want to maintain that Boeing, Airbus, and Siemens, as well as major light aircraft manufacturers like Diamond and Pipestrel don’t know what they are doing, then you are simply living in a fantasy world of your own making, not reality.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 31, 2019 8:34 am

All passengers are notified that all flights are cancelled. It is a cloudy, rainy, calm day in Victoria. The wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, delaying the recharging of batteries. We sold our ICE aircraft last year. Check in periodically for updates.

old construction worker
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 31, 2019 8:40 am

‘What advances are those? A fossil fuel plane can be fueled and turned around in less than a hour. Can those “new” batteries be recharged to full capacity in less than a hour? How many recharge cycles can they stand?’ The answer is simple but costly. Do what Pony Express did with horses. Have a fully charge plane ready for takeoff. LOL

Reply to  old construction worker
April 1, 2019 5:50 am

The electric training aircraft already in service now feature quick charging and/or replaceable battery packs – just slip in a fully charged battery pack in multiple modules and the aircraft is ready to fly.

Hybrid electrics don’t even need to worry about that at all – they land with a fully charged battery pack. Just like hybrid electric cars.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 9:22 am

Quick charging *any* battery reduces its life span and therefore makes it more expensive. Replaceable modules don’t eliminate that downside. Replaceable modules bring along problems of their own, like how do you insure fail-safe connections. Both permanent and replaceable modules are going to suffer from needing heavy-duty fire and smoke prevention should a short occur and a fire start. In addition, how do you manage replacement modules? Are you going to keep a centralized inventory of charged modules or is each operator going to have to keep an inventory of their own? What are the core charges going to be with a centralized inventory to keep unscrupulous operators from cycling bad batteries into the replacement module inventory? Those core charges could be quite hefty! How many replacement modules of different sizes and capacities would have to be maintained in either a centralized inventory or in an operator inventory? One size fits all would be extremely inefficient.

It’s just not as simple as it sounds.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
April 1, 2019 11:42 am

Dude – quick charging of Lithium ion batteries has been well established for decades. Used on everything from battery powered Tesla sports cars to your laptop and cell phone.

And of course, that is not an issue at all anyway with hybrid electrics, which already do and will continue to dominate both highway vehicles and aircraft design and production. With a hybrid, the battery virtually never gets drawn down anywhere near its capacity.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Duane
April 1, 2019 5:54 pm

The more often you run down and recharge your cell phone battery the shorter life it will have! It’s the same for *any* lithium battery whether it is in your over-the-ear headphones or your flashlight! It’s why police replace the lithium batteries in their flashlights and laser attachments on a regular basis. You can only recharge them so many times and you don’t want it dying on you when you need it the most!

If the battery in a hybrid setup never gets discharged significantly then of what use is it? Why not just run off internal combustion engine doing the charging of the battery?

michael hart
Reply to  Tim Gorman
April 1, 2019 5:16 pm

If energy density (mostly wrt mass) didn’t matter, Duane, then they wouldn’t bother charging you more for extra baggage at the airport.

Electric cars are generally not yet economic without laws to make them so. The case of aeroplanes is far more challenging. Within-city transport, maybe. But that is only because of the economics of congestion for surface transport.

We will probably never see long haul electric aeroplanes because the point at which batteries can store a lot more energy simply means that they are effectively just a bomb waiting for a trigger. Known chemical thermodynamics indicates there is really nothing left to try that is better than using hydrocarbons in an oxygen-rich environment.

James Bull
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 31, 2019 1:18 pm

My thoughts as well was how much would it cost for the “parking” charges for the plane whilst the battery recharges as most large airports charges are in the thousands £/$ per min for fueling and servicing.
I’m sure those traveling to the latest climate fest wouldn’t mind as other people will be paying but the rest of us wouldn’t be able to afford to travel (suppose that’s what they want)

James Bull

Michael Bentley
March 30, 2019 10:13 am

Coming from the Seattle area, and knowing Harbor as a long time carrier there, I thought they had more sense….well, if the battery goes dead in the middle of the flight, there’s always Puget Sound to land on….

Reply to  Michael Bentley
March 30, 2019 11:31 am

…they work really good in freezing weather

and when the fog rolls in and they have to turn around and go back

Mike H
March 30, 2019 10:14 am

Now we need a company to name itself EFO………Electric Flight Orchestra

Greg Woods
March 30, 2019 10:17 am

note to CTM: This should be followed up every few months or so…

March 30, 2019 10:19 am

This should be fun to follow. 1/2 hour range? Maybe 150 miles? Then recharge for an hour+ before return? “Rapid” development of battery technology? Take off weight = landing weight limitations on airframe? This appears to be some Greenies that are going to show those in doubt how it’s done. 🙂

Reply to  markl
March 30, 2019 10:38 am

The Beaver has a cruising speed of about 145mph, So the range would be about 70 miles. Powered by gas it has a range of abut 450 miles.

Reply to  Dave
March 30, 2019 1:38 pm

I fly in one regularly. Fantastic been there done that aircraft with the aerodynamics of a fridge door. Cruising SOG is approx. 100kts, no head/tail wind.
Their reliability comes from a 9 cyl P&W radial engine with gobs of torque.
Electrifying one these work horse bush planes makes no sense as the batteries would take away what little internal luggage space they have and Harbour Air’s CEO is doing some very PC green virtue signalling.
Will not happen, neither on the Beaver nor on the Caravan they use.

Reply to  tetris
March 30, 2019 3:34 pm

“Come in flight Lithium39;
we have a slight emergency on the landing field. Please enter holding pattern Fox1 while we clear debris. We should have you on the ground in 45 minutes…

I assume that the half hour flight time includes takeoff, reaching altitude, descending, holding and landing.
They would be foolish to fly further than fifty miles (eighty and a half kilometers).

I suspect they’re planning on a large wing area for maximum lift to minimize required battery weight.

Flight Level
Reply to  ATheoK
March 31, 2019 4:29 am

And that’s 45 minutes in the weather after sundown. With anti-icing and conservative fuel efficient speed. A little bit of nose up, flaps 5, 10 maybe ?

On an a/c that was already bingo fuel on departure.

Is it me or that’s not the most recommended situation to be even in an amphibian ?

Moray Watson
Reply to  markl
March 30, 2019 10:56 am

Well if they can’t dump fuel to reduce landing weight, then they’ll have to dump luggage and passengers instead. The pilot of course, always goes down with his plane.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Moray Watson
March 31, 2019 10:26 am

May have better odds to dump the passengers rather than ditch w/ lithium batteries.

Reply to  markl
March 30, 2019 11:33 am

Maybe 150 miles?

…half that…their weather can change too fast….turn around and go back….then reserve

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  markl
March 30, 2019 11:58 am

Washington State Gov Jay “Defeat Climate Change” Inslee has proposed a joint venture between Washington State and British Columbia. The venture, projected to cost only 200 billion USD, will install very very tall electric lines between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. The result will be a “cable car in the sky”.

When asked about all the other air traffic affected by this joint venture, “The other airlines will have to up their game, so they can use our system. This will be better for customers and the homeless in our state. And will defeat climate change. We must have a static climate. Change is bad. Climate change is killing our forests….” Inslee said. He is proposing a new sales tax of 500% on sugary drinks to pay for the project, but only for “rich people”.

Canadian officials could not be reached for comment.

Just in case /sarc

March 30, 2019 10:24 am

Electric commercial flights are also planned by Norway…


Tim Gorman
Reply to  griff
March 30, 2019 10:57 am

“Solvik-Olsen will be the only passenger on board the aircraft, which has a capacity of two people and has a two-hour charging time.”

Really? And these parameters are going to make the airline into a productive entity with profits enough to convert the rest of the fleet?

“The aim of the flight is not to demonstrate the practical viability of the aircraft, Riise said.

“This aircraft shows it is possible to fly on electricity. The point of the flight is to show it’s possible,” she said.”

Really? You could prove this with a battery powered RC-airplane!

Reply to  griff
March 30, 2019 11:11 am

For some reason griff can’t tell the difference between a press release and an actual, in service plane.

Reply to  MarkW
March 30, 2019 1:25 pm

Griff always do the same. Reads the headline, he search over the internet for something similar, and he posts the link here without even checking the content of the link. One of these days he is going to post some pr0n.

Reply to  griff
March 30, 2019 11:13 am

You will really swallow absolutely anything no matter how absurd, won’t You Griffie?

That aircraft can carry one (1) passenger and 20 lb of luggage plus the pilot. If neither pilot or passenger
is overweight that is.

Technical data are here:


Oddly enough there are no data at all on endurance or range, but they can be calculated from the operating weight (1212 lb) and optimum sink-rate (0.7 ms-1). The largest (and heaviest) battery pack is 9.1 kWh. If we figure 90 % efficiency for the complete power train (battery + transmission + engine + propeller) which is very optimistic, and suppose that the flight can be made entirely at optimum speed (94 km/h), that there is zero wind, and that the extra energy needed during take-off and climb can be completely regained by gliding at the destination (which it can’t), then the endurance of the aircraft (=battery) is 2 hours and 10 minutes, which translates to 204 km (127 miles) range.

By the way I hope that battery capacity is not the total capacity since a li-ion battery is ruined if you empty it completely.

Reply to  tty
March 30, 2019 11:31 am

Thanks for the link tty.
Good lord, this ‘aircraft shows it is possible to fly on electricity’ claim is even more pathetic than I envisaged.
On the basis of the pipistrel demonstrating the future of commercial electric flight and bearing in mind that bicycles are now an integral part of Noregian town planner’s planning for daily office commuting: https://www.visitnorway.com/media/news-from-norway/norwegian-proposal-goes-viral-may-spend-1-billion-on-bike-highways/ , why should Avinor aim so low?
Gossamer Albatross demonstrated that it is possible to fly on ‘clean’ pedal power after all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacCready_Gossamer_Albatross, so why not set a target for all short haul air travel to be pedal powered by 2040?
Come on Norway! you need real ambition to set a shining green example.

Reply to  Erny72
March 30, 2019 1:22 pm

I am not sure that the image being presented of Norwegian towns and cities being like Nordic equivalents of placid , Green Amsterdam is entirely accurate . Just a few years ago we were on holiday in Norway , and being summer , and with long, light evenings wanted to sit out at pavement cafes near the centre in Oslo. It was made nearly impossible because every night there were hordes of leather clad motorcyclists roaring up and down the main streets on powerful motor cycles with no apparent concern for any speed or sound restriction.
I suspect that it will be a while yet before a Green tinged version of civilisation finally catches up with this Viking nation.
However that is the way they want to live – it is not for me, just a visitor, to try to change them.

Reply to  tty
March 30, 2019 12:17 pm

Correct me for an error
1 HP hour equals 748 watt hours.
750 HP hours equals 561 Kwatt hours
@750 HP a 9.1 Kwh battery can supply energy for about 58 seconds.

Reply to  Dipchip
March 30, 2019 1:02 pm

That number should be 746. I used my failing memory.
This is not ignorant or stupid, it is as Will Rogers would say just plane dumb.

Reply to  Dipchip
March 31, 2019 8:54 am


Yep. The Pratt & Whitney PT₆ can consume as little as 0.3 kg per kWh of output power. Most 10 passenger craft carry 400 liters of so of jet fuel. Good for 7+ hours cruising at maximum-range throttle. 1,100 nmi. 1,250 miles, 2,000 kilometers. Works out to what, 350 kg of fuel ÷ 7 hours = 50 kg/hr nominal, with each kg supplying about 3.3 kWh of power, for 165 kW output continuous. 1,150 kWh.

At a best-of-breed battery pack weighing 3 kg/kWh, that’d take 3,500 kg of battery. Which is to say, almost the entire gross weight of the same aircraft, passengers, fuel, engines and all.

Dunno. Seems like a non-starter to me.


Reply to  Dipchip
March 31, 2019 9:05 am

Humm – 58 seconds eh? Should be enough to just get airborne so the participants can be nominated for a Darwin award, or Nobel Peace prize – posthumously.

Reply to  griff
March 30, 2019 11:14 am

Griff, just in case you’re another of the green team who habitually paste links to articles you haven’t actually read, let’s contemplate how electric flights are planned by Norway from the article:
” The electric aircraft, an Alpha Electro G2 produced in Slovenia, is scheduled to take off from Oslo Airport on Monday afternoon and will be flown by Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Petersen.
Solvik-Olsen will be the only passenger on board the aircraft, which has a capacity of two people and has a two-hour charging time.
The aim of the flight is not to demonstrate the practical viability of the aircraft…
“This aircraft shows it is possible to fly on electricity. The point of the flight is to show it’s possible”

The rest is some wishful thinking about ‘all commercial flights’ (which actually means flights less than 1.5 hours long) being electric by 2040 according to Norwegian environmentalist NGO ‘Future in Our Hands’.

One bloke flying an experimental kite designed to take two for joy flights is not exactly ‘commercial’. Referring to a bureaucratic ‘target’, which as the Paris gentleman’s agreement shows us is a pompous pseudonym for ‘wishful thinking’, as ‘planning’ is hardly compelling either.

This nonsense talk is normal for Norgrey, who seem to have an incurable guilt complex about going from rags to riches on the back of exporting oil, but if it floats your boat you believe what you want.

Bengt Abelsson
Reply to  griff
March 31, 2019 8:13 am

“Both Falk-Petersen and Solvik-Olsen said they had been on strict diets before the flight.”
The development of electric driven aeroplanes is at a level comparable to the Wright brothers of the ICE system.
Wilbur and Orville also made a short flight, landed unhurt and had no payload.

March 30, 2019 10:29 am

Do the destinations have recharge capabilities? If not, the half hour flight time (plus reserve) is actually only 15 minutes; 15 minutes there + 15 minutes back = 30 minutes flight time. And what is the recharge time? Or do they plan to use the descent to turn the propeller (a windmill?) to recharge the batteries? Inquiring minds and all that. It is, after all, veeery close to the first of April.

March 30, 2019 10:32 am

Of course ICE is almost obsolete…humans will live and die within 50 miles from where they’re born in all the comfort mud and wattle can provide.

michael hart
Reply to  Wharfplank
April 1, 2019 5:28 pm

Don’t forget we will also have to paint our faces with woad, for some good environmental reason that temporarily escapes me.

steve case
March 30, 2019 10:32 am

They are going to have to get FAA approval.

Scouser in AZ
Reply to  steve case
March 30, 2019 4:29 pm

Or Transport Canada approval….:^)

John Bell
March 30, 2019 10:33 am

It does not consume fossil fuel? So I guess they have PV and wind turbines at the recharge stations, or they just plug it in to an outlet (coal fired) for recharges.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  John Bell
March 30, 2019 10:59 am

The Pacific Northwest does have lots of hydropower. It’s just limited to mainland mostly where grid connections are possible. And remote islands don’t have underwater power connections unless they are close to shore and grid power is close by.
They can always have big diesel generators hidden back in the woods near their base operations. They’d just have to hide them from view to maintain their fake virtue.

steve case
March 30, 2019 10:36 am

“The first one would be a prototype, which is basically proving the technology for Transport Canada and getting toward certification,” McDougall said.

If that’s anything like the FAA, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Tom Trevor
Reply to  steve case
March 30, 2019 3:01 pm

You mean if like the FAA, Canada requires airplanes be airworthy?

John Robertson
March 30, 2019 10:37 am

I wonder what the competing technologies are?
Rubber bands?
Or compressed air?
Being in the electrical trade,I am just fascinated by what these “rapid advances in battery technology” are.
Or the aviation bugbear,Power to weight ratio.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  John Robertson
March 30, 2019 12:01 pm

“I wonder what the competing technologies are?”

Hamsters on steroids.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
March 30, 2019 8:53 pm

Rubbing rods with rabbit skins, as suggested above.

Stan Robertson
Reply to  John Robertson
March 30, 2019 12:08 pm

There really is no competition; not when aviation fuels run about 100X the energy density of their batteries. Different engine weights don’t come close to making up the difference. especially when you consider that the expended fossil fuel is discarded and not hauled back for recharge.

Les Francis
Reply to  John Robertson
March 30, 2019 3:59 pm

Quote : I am just fascinated by what these “rapid advances in battery technology” are.

Me too. Been in the heavy battery and DC voltage industry for 50 years.

I’m still waiting for the rapid advances.
Still waiting for the the laws of physics to change also.

It’s not the battery technology which has changed so much, it’s the technology and light materials which the batteries supply voltage too have changed dramatically.

Those little button batteries which power your watches – they’ve been round for 60+ years. The batteries in your cell phone are just a collection of button batteries or derivation of.

colin smith
March 30, 2019 10:38 am

I’ve got it in mind that commercial flights have to have a fuel reserve over that needed for the journey.
Is this correct?

Does this apply to electric aircraft and included in the specifications?

March 30, 2019 10:38 am

Seems to be just a PR move for the airline. Maximum range on their “prototype” will be 30 mins so no way that could ever be certified for commercial use due to the lack of safety margin. They get 3 years of free advertising before having to say they need more development time. There’s no chance that Lithium-ion batteries could ever improve efficiency enough to make it practical so they are completely dependent on a technology breakthrough that’s likely to be far in the future.

March 30, 2019 10:43 am

If you mess around with Father Time you risk getting your clock stopped.

kent beuchert
March 30, 2019 10:44 am

“The internal combustion engine is all but obsolete, really, for future development.”
Maybe that’s because it doesn’t NEED and future development. ICE engines are very
clean these days.

Reply to  kent beuchert
March 30, 2019 11:16 am

I’ve read of several potential developments that can squeeze out a few more percent of efficiency.

March 30, 2019 10:46 am

The energy density of batteries is about 1/10th to 1/15th that of fossil fuel, so batteries in aircraft are a bit of a non-starter. Plus the batteries do not ‘burn off’ during the flight, as with fossil fuel aircraft, which makes the latter more and more efficient as the flight proceeds.

This claim is probably correct in that they could get an hour’s duration from batteries. The electric engine is much lighter than a piston engine, and a a bit lighter than a turbine, so that can offset some of the extra battery weight. But the batteries would severely limit range and turnaround time. The only way this would be feasable is if the flights were just a quick wizz around the bay, and the batteries could be exchanged with new ones on the return. Now that might work – but only for a very specific type of operation.


Go Home
Reply to  ralfellis
March 30, 2019 11:13 am

The Boeing 787 used new light weight lithium-ion batteries to power up the APU to replace the standard heavier batteries. Some earlier fires within the lithium-ion batteries caused grounding of the fleet to allow redesign of the battery enclosures to contain the smoke and fire. The weight added by the enclosure offset all the weight gains made by going to lithium-ion batteries. As we all know these fires can be severe and catastrophic in a plane.

And like you said, when flying a plane you only add enough fuel to cover the distance you are flying, and as the fuel burns the plane becomes more efficient. Since I believe the planes are not designed to land with a full load of fuel, when making an emergency stop far short of the original distance the plane was fueled to fly, they have to jettison some of the fuel. So will they be designing these planes to add only the battery capacity the plane is expected to use (plus standard reserves) by each leg of the journey? Can they jettison the batteries if need be? LOL, I don’t think so.

Reply to  Go Home
March 30, 2019 11:20 am

“Since I believe the planes are not designed to land with a full load of fuel”

You are right, they aren’t. If a heavily loaded aircraft has to land quickly after take-off, fuel has to be dumped. In an extreme emergency (for example an onboard fire) an overweight landing can be made, but this is dangerous since the landing speed will be abnormally high and the strain on the aircraft structure, particularly the landing gear, will be extreme.

Reply to  ralfellis
March 30, 2019 11:15 am

Yes, like joy flights in a hot air balloon?

Reply to  ralfellis
March 30, 2019 4:21 pm

It is about 50:1 by weight, gasoline to Lithium Ion:


Reply to  ShanghaiDan
March 30, 2019 5:25 pm

That’s best-case… worst-case is closer to 100:1

March 30, 2019 10:47 am

Note that the range requirement for a passenger-carrying aircraft is “Alternate + 30 minutes”. That means that to fly for example to a destination 30 minutes flight away, you must arrive at the destination with enough fuel to fly to an alternate field plus fuel for 30 minutes more. If there is no alternate then a 45 minutes reserve is required.

Tom t
Reply to  tty
March 30, 2019 3:05 pm

Being a seaplane alternate airports are all around you.

steve case
Reply to  Tom t
March 30, 2019 3:21 pm

Tom t March … at 3:05 pm
Being a seaplane alternate airports are all around you.

Excellent point (-:

Reply to  Tom t
March 31, 2019 3:52 am

Not really, you need a protected, fairly large (along the direction of wind), obstruction-free area of water, which may not always be easy to find.

Admittedly the Puget Sound area is probably one of the better places to operate sea-planes.

Stephen Singer
March 30, 2019 10:48 am

It’s more like criminally insane.

March 30, 2019 10:53 am

“The internal combustion engine is all but obsolete, really, for future development.”

I don’t think so, Tim.
~ Al Boreland

Reply to  H.R.
March 30, 2019 1:48 pm

I read that and thought, “Hm, I bet whoever wrote this PR bit probably used an ICE to get somewhere in the last week. So much for ‘obsolete’.”

Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2019 10:55 am

“Somebody check me here, but doesn’t this seem like a whooooolllllleeeee lot of wishful thinking?~ctm”

Somebody check me here, but doesn’t this seem like a whooooollllleeeee lot of virtue signalling?~jmo”

As for the commercial viability of such a plane, they will certainly find that a battery powered plane will be quite limited in range, endurance, and to a lesser degree payload/pax capacity, especially compared to a Jet-A powered turboprop Beaver, or a Cessna Caravan (turbo prop).

The first and most obvious is the batteries replacing the wing fuel tanks. And you cannot put heavy battery packs behind the passenger compartment due to c/g balance issues. And they cannot put those lithium battery packs in the pontoon floats (most of their fleet are float planes) due to probability of salt water intrusion there and the shocks the pontoons take when they land in choppy water.

Frequently pilots adjust take-off fuel load for the intended mission and payload. How do you do this with fixed batteries in wings that require structural integrity? And as a flight in fossil fueled aircraft progresses, fuel burn off results in improved performance. What this means is that every flight from start to finish will be operating a nearly 100% certificated maximum gross weight (MGW). That is brutal on the airframe and pilot’s nerves, year after year.

The Pratt-Whitney PT6A-34 engine kit (680HP) turbo prop is a marvel of packed light-weight, power and performance, and reliability. And while an electric motor will produce much more immediate HP and torque for the same weight, the PT-6 produces all the power needed to carry 6-11 passengers and their luggage (depending on range needed and luggage weight-volume) on 4 hour flights.

What will likely happened with an electric version is range and payload will be severely limited to probably no more than a 60-90 minute flight time, thus range will be in 150 mile area, compared to 5 hour (4 operating+1 reserve hour) flight times giving it 600 mile range for Turbo-Beaver. And passengers probably maxed out a 6-8 to keep landing weights in reasonable ranges (since there is fuel weight burn down).

One thing that these operators frequently do is the same plane and pilot can make two complete pax runs before having to refuel. Refueling takes less than 30 minutes, probably around 20 minutes before the palen is ready to go back out again. Fast charging a battery-Beaver would probably be a 3 hour affair. And repeated fast charging degrades the battery packs much faster due to added heating.

And wherever it lands, an electric aircraft with less than 35% charge must then have access to a high current charging system, otherwise it is stuck until another plane can ferry in charged battery packs. That limits its usefulness to flights between fixed base operations unless it can land with at distant point with at least 50% battery to make a safe return.

The further stupidity (blind virtue signalling) is that where does the electricity for the charging come from? In Vancouver and Washington State mainland sites, it can and does come from hydropower. But how many smaller islands where they operate into have hydro power? So it’s still fossil fueled airplanes anytime they charge from the grid that isn’t predominately hydro power. I suppose they could always put in diesel powered generators to charge the battery packs, they’d just have to keep them out of sight to maintain their fake virtue.

No make no mistake, this is not a sound business decision unless they are pricing in the value of virtue and selling “green virtue” to gullible well-heeled passengers.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2019 11:09 am

Turbo Beaver spec sheet.
5.9 hours endurance, 600 sm rrange.
186 gallons Jet-A x 6.66 lbs/gallon = 1,240 pounds.

And that’s a full fuel load which burns down as the flight progresses improving performance immensely.

Scouser in AZ
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2019 4:34 pm

And the engine is about 1,200 lbs too.

Reply to  Scouser in AZ
March 31, 2019 3:59 am

Nope. A PT6A weighs from about 300 lb to about 500 lb depending on model. Power-to-weight ratio is from 0.4 to 0.6 lb per hp.

Reply to  Scouser in AZ
March 31, 2019 4:10 am

Checked. Turbo-Beavers use the PT6A-34 model, that is 331 lb (150 kg) and nominally 750 hp (550 kW), though they are apparently downrated to 680 hp (507 kW).

PT6A’s are often downrated since it dramatically increases maintenance intervals and thereby decreases cost

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2019 11:16 am

OPALCO co-op utility in the San Juan Islands gets its power from BPA, ie mainly hydro.


Dave Fair
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2019 11:35 am

Hydropower is now a fixed resource; any additional electric load must come from fossil fuels or expensive ‘renewables.’

John Tillman
Reply to  Dave Fair
March 30, 2019 11:53 am

Some of the Columbia River system dams could support additional generators, but water is now spilled for salmon that could have been used to generate power.

Reply to  Dave Fair
March 30, 2019 4:40 pm

Not in BC.

Dave Fair
Reply to  nc
March 30, 2019 5:35 pm

Everywhere, nc. Try building a new hydropower facility.

John Tillman
Reply to  nc
March 31, 2019 1:20 pm

Yup. BC still has room to grow its hydropower:


It’s one among many such projects:


Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2019 12:28 pm

Beaver aircraft carry it’s fuel in the belly.

J Mac
March 30, 2019 10:56 am

As described, the converted aircraft will have limited utility, given the 30 minute maximum flight time combined with the need for recharge capability at the destination. If 30 minute flights represent the majority of Harbour Airs commercial business, they may be able to make the business case ‘close’.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  J Mac
March 30, 2019 11:47 am

That’s pretty much my take as it looks like an ideal early application for electric passenger airliners. With foreseeable battery technology, I don’t see any chances of electric airline routes greater than 500 miles. On the other hand, my guess is developing such electric aircraft would be cheaper than the California high speed rail project.

Reply to  J Mac
March 30, 2019 3:01 pm

my rough calculations with a load of 2 persons gave it a range of around 70km, assuming you have the ability to recharge it at the other end, otherwise you’re looking at 30-35km. Neat if you need a pond hopper.

and for giggles here’s a guy hitting a LiIon battery.

Now all they need is to wish and dream into existence a battery with 5 to 10 times this capacity 😉

Gordon Dressler
March 30, 2019 10:57 am

Math, and sanity, check: a 750 horsepower electric motor is equivalent to a 560 kW electric motor. Peak horsepower would only be used briefly for takeoff (and perhaps for a go-around on a botched landing attempt). However, the aircraft’s battery and wiring would have to be sized to supply this much peak power. It is reasonable to assume that most of the cruise flight would be about 30% of peak power, with the extra power needed for climbing to cruise altitude basically offset by the reduced power during descent from cruise altitude. So, if the aircraft is planning for 30 minutes normal flight time and 30 minutes of reserve as stated in the above article, we are looking at a minimum battery size of 560*.30*1 = 168 kWh.

To put that in perspective, a Tesla Model S 100 battery pack at 100 kWh rating (actually, only about 80 kWh usable without permanently damaging the battery) weighs around 1,400 pounds. Based on this, the proposed electric-powered “bush plane” would need to carry about 2,800 pounds of battery pack(s) versus about 630 pounds for 100 gallons of gasoline (which would incidentally give it several hours of flight time).

Say bye-bye to the electric plane being able to haul the same number of people or anywhere close to the same amount of payload.

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
March 30, 2019 12:56 pm

What about all the other electrical needs? I assume that ice engines produce the electrical power necessary in addition to that needed for actual flight. I would think that the batteries in an electric plane would need to be kept heated, too, drawing a measurable amount of power.

Ben Wilson
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
March 30, 2019 2:33 pm

30% peak power??

IIRC, When I flew small airplanes we cruised at 70-80% peak power. . .

Dr. Strangelover
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
March 31, 2019 8:35 am

The drag force is proportional to velocity squared and power is proportional to velocity cube. For the aircraft DHC-2 Beaver:
cruising speed = v1 = 143 mph
cruising power = P1 = ?
max. speed = v2 = 158 mph
max. power = P2 = 336 kW
P1/P2 = (v1/v2)^3
P1 = P2 (v1/v2)^3 = 249 kW

Energy capacity at 1 hr flying = 249 kwh
1400 lbs per 100 kwh = 14 lbs/kwh
weight of battery = 249 (14) = 3487 lbs
That’s heavier than the empty weight of the aircraft (3,000 lbs) excluding passenger and cargo. Doubtful if it can even takeoff.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Dr. Strangelover
March 31, 2019 8:38 am

I mistyped my name LOL

kent beuchert
March 30, 2019 10:58 am

Battery recharge speeds not so critical these days – the upcoming Porsche Taycan can recharge to 80%
in less than 20 minutes. Batteries can be recharged LOTS of times. It’s not unusual for a 100,000 mile pls Tesla to still be using the same battery pack. Figure over 12 years and perhaps up to 19 years for an EV car battery.
The battery’s weight is a big problem for aircraft.As mentioned, these first electric airplanes look to have a short range of less than 100 miles and reserve of the same (in case the airport is fogged in) if there is a need to go to an alternate airport. At this point,electric airplanes are simply not practical. However, they will be more reliable , just as electric cars (all things being equal) are simpler and more reliable than gas powered cars.
General Motors has developed an electric drivetrain which one will be able to buy as a crate engine/battery
for powering GM V8 muscle cars. Three power levels : 750, 450 and 300 HP – they bolt right up to any GM transmission used for inline rear drive GM vehicles. Consumer interest has been very strong . New Camaros with 750HP electric motors have run 9 second quarter miles – that’s fast.

Reply to  kent beuchert
March 30, 2019 11:23 am

You can charge them fast. Or you can charge them lots of times. You can’t do both.
How many actual Tesla’s have actually made it to 100K miles?
Those numbers are laboratory simulations run in ideal conditions. They aren’t real world numbers.

Reply to  kent beuchert
March 30, 2019 11:31 am

“However, they will be more reliable”

You don’t have much experience of PT6A engines I take it. It is just about the most reliable engine in human history. It is the only engine ever to be certified for SEIFR (Single-Engine Instrument Flight Rules) commercial operations on account of its extreme reliability.

No prototype electrical system is likely to come even close. Particularly not with li-ion batteries.

Michael 2
Reply to  tty
March 30, 2019 2:15 pm
Reply to  tty
March 30, 2019 3:42 pm

I have doubts that electrical engine required controlling circuit boards will withstand lightning strikes or even lightning strike near misses.

March 30, 2019 10:59 am

If I hear “it’s the wave of the future” one more time, I will be forced to do something very unladylike to the fool speaking those words. They have it coming.

Sal Minella
Reply to  Sheri
March 30, 2019 11:32 am

Dippin’ Dots is the ice cream of the future since 1988 and fusion is the power of the future since the 1960s so, there is no reason to believe that this is not (and always will be) “the wave of the future” .

March 30, 2019 11:00 am

Soon or later we will go back to the bicycle plane :

comment image

Produced in bicycle energy fueled plants 🙂

Coeur de Lion
March 30, 2019 11:02 am

Getting a seaplane to unstick is more of an energy challenge than wheels

John F. Hultquist
March 30, 2019 11:06 am

I’ve booked a flight for April 1, 2030; with an option to cancel.

John Tillman
March 30, 2019 11:08 am

Last year, MagniX sounded a bit less optimistic than does Harbour Air now:


March 30, 2019 11:08 am

Let’s see if it ever gets beyond the virtue signalling prototype.
My guess is that a year from now, the electric plane will be quietly mothballed.

E J Zuiderwijk
March 30, 2019 11:13 am

The announcements of the death of the internal combustion engine are somewhat exagerated.

Incidently, I heard that the Chinese just launched an electric rocket for a moonshot. They are now looking for a socket halfway to recharge.

Samuel C Cogar
March 30, 2019 11:17 am

Given the short distances between Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle, ….. and flying low altitude, mostly all over water …… and no mountains to cross, ….. their electric conversion might work ….. iffen the “takeoffs” don’t put too much drain on the battery charge. And iffen they run out of battery “juice”, just ser er down on the water.

Reg Nelson
Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
March 30, 2019 11:33 am

Maybe they could use an electrically powered catapult system for takeoff, like aircraft carriers use, to conserve some battery power.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Reg Nelson
March 31, 2019 6:47 am

That shur would set the passengers back in their seats.

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
March 31, 2019 8:57 pm

“And iffen they run out of battery “juice”, just ser er down on the water.” Except they would be landing at full/takeoff load deadstick and if the water was rough …. at all …. it would probably mean crash landing. Landing with pontoons on even minimally agitated water is risky.

Dr. Bob
March 30, 2019 11:22 am

This from the AAIA website:
As an accomplished engineer and long-time AIAA member, I was disappointed to say the least, when I read July/August’s Aerospace America cover article, “Fly the Electric Skies.” The article dreamily speculates that battery/electric propulsion is the wave of the future without any supporting evidence. It has no technical content whatsoever, yet the subject screams for it.
First of all, let me say that I am an electric skeptic. There are huge problems in competing with hydrocarbon energy in every sector of energy use. Aerospace is perhaps the most difficult discipline for electric because of the tremendous importance of weight. But I would be glad to read an article that presents the real issues and provides evidence for any reasonable alternatives.
For example, this article could have discussed the weight challenge — where do batteries stand compared to current fuels in energy-to-weight comparisons? What threshold do they need to achieve to create a viable product? There are other demands, as well, that aren’t even discussed in the article. The high pressure produced by gas turbines powers airliner Environmental Control Systems — how will electric aircraft cool/heat the cabin, and how does the added weight affect the concept viability? Hydraulics are used for heavy lifting like landing gear and flaps — is there an electric alternative that doesn’t introduce unacceptable weight penalties? The airport economics are important, as well. The hub-and-spoke model didn’t just develop because of special interest influences — there are real economic benefits to that approach, as there are economic issues with a more distributed regional system. Delving into this topic quantitatively, instead of presenting only qualitative inconvenience issues with hub-and-spoke, would be extremely informative to all of us. The whole article seems to lack objectivity, and just as importantly, any meat.
I realize that Aerospace America is not an AIAA journal. But that doesn’t mean it should contain only the fantasies and whims of someone who has a vested interest in seeing them funded.
Torger J. Anderson
AIAA associate fellow
Alexandria, Virginia

F. Diamant
March 30, 2019 11:36 am

Test e-plane concept with a 1960 Beaver is like test electric car concept with a 1960 Impala, a joke.

John Bell
March 30, 2019 11:40 am

Maybe a battery powered glider with one person on board, towed up to 2000 feet to start, but a SEA plane with 6 people taking off from the water?? NO WAY JOSE

Reply to  John Bell
March 30, 2019 2:21 pm

Add a couple of pedals per person and a flintstonesque design and some people might buy it.

March 30, 2019 11:46 am

A little historical perspective:

Electrical aircraft today are about where IC-powered aircraft were in 1908, performance wise.

A decade after that small-scale, short-range (e g London-Paris) scheduled passenger operation started

Twenty years after that, small-scale, high-price, island-hopping transatlantic and transpacific scheduled operations started.

And twenty years after that, aircraft had more or less outcompeted ocean liners

And that was with two world wars to help accelerate aircraft development.

Reply to  tty
March 30, 2019 1:04 pm

Past results do not guarantee future performance.

There were attempts at engineering other types of electrically powered transportation. like autos, back then, too, yet most fell by the wayside, losing out to the ice. Why was that?

Flight Level
March 30, 2019 12:07 pm

Even if aviation has learned a lot, one still learns from mistakes. One of the most valuable lessons is that too much fuel on board has claimed less lives than not enough of it.

Then electric subsides kicked in.

Bush aviation gives a false hope for usefulness of batteries only energy for short legs.

This is most often VFR low altitude navigation. Right where weather can show it’s bag of tricks at any moment.

The most energy inefficient flight profile. And very limited battery reserve to cope with it.

Why this is so professionally unethical ? Well, risks are that those who ask will never understand the answer. Until the moment they firewall the throttles in a gust and nothing expected happens, only terrain comes closer and closer.

Reply to  Flight Level
March 30, 2019 12:35 pm

They can always build in a huge parachute just to be safe.

Rick Schmidt
March 30, 2019 12:16 pm

Electric commercial flights should be very interesting in cold weather when the batteries no longer work well.

Joseph Borsa
March 30, 2019 12:40 pm

This looks like another way to get into the public trough under the pretext of moving towards “clean energy”. I’d like to know the details of any subsidies from government or other sources. Odds are that there’s a giant siphon into public funds.

March 30, 2019 12:47 pm

The Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver area is a fortress of the green progressive left, think Suzuki, Weaver, Gates. Harbor Air has been facing the opposition of its so-called noisy fossil fuel operation so this is virtual signalling for survival. Time will tell if electric will work on these short quick routes. From my observation, most of the travellers seem to be business, government daytrippers with no or little luggage so maybe the weight of batteries may not be too much of an issue in this operation.

March 30, 2019 12:59 pm

This came to me part way through the comments, and I rushed with hopes that no one else had thought of it.
Think like a liberal/Democrat and imagine a hybrid float plane.
But instead of a small gas motor the plane has another propeller.
This is connected to a generator that keeps the juice up in the battery pack.
Nothing to it.
Got to go–I’m off to the patent office.

March 30, 2019 1:20 pm

Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoomian air boats were driven by “a spring which ran the lenght of the keel”. There was never any mention of how the spring was wound

March 30, 2019 1:40 pm

I fly regularly on Harbour Air (HA). I am also a private pilot. A key piece of this story is that HA is utterly dependent on government employees travelling between Victoria (the capital on Vancouver Island) and Vancouver. The Government of BC is committed to lowering GHG emissions. HA might figure it has tremendous upward flexibility in its ticket prices because the government will pay for the virtue-signalling value it gets for going electric. Harbour Air serves the government, and its only real competitor is Helijet Airways, which already charges much more than Harbour Air to take people by helicopter instead of float plane. So in the end it might make business sense for HA, but only because its main customer is the taxpayer.

March 30, 2019 1:52 pm

I’ll check back on this story in 10 years and see how they’ve progressed.

Gene L
March 30, 2019 2:05 pm

Last year at the Experimental Aircraft Assoc (EAA) annual fly in in Oshkosh, Wi. One of the displays was from this manufacturer


The needs of a flight school are quite a bit different then for an airline, and a light two place aircraft with an hour of flight time fits the bill. Flight school aircraft spend most of their time in the vicinity of the airport, and do a lot of take offs requiring full power, and they never need to carry any baggage.

My recollection was that there were a couple of flight schools planning on using these for primary training. So if they’re still in business this summer it might be an actual successful application of electric powered flight.

Reply to  Gene L
March 31, 2019 4:24 am

Actually the G-2 griff swooned over is also a successful application. It is actually a sailplane, but one that can “tow itself” into the air with an electric motor and battery.

Bruce of Newcastle
March 30, 2019 2:09 pm

Remember the Dreamliner battery fires?
Now imagine something a thousand times worse.
As you increase the number of cells you linearly increase the chance of a short forming, and a fire.

March 30, 2019 2:14 pm

If I wanted to haul batteries around, I’d do it by barge.

Gunga Din
March 30, 2019 2:18 pm

Hmmm…these are seaplanes?
I see hope for Hawaii’s tourist industry under AOC Lame new Deal.
Set up a string of floating windmills from the US to Hawaii so the seaplanes can “land” and recharge.
Flight time from CA to Hawaii is 5 to 6 hours on a jet. Since there’s no such thing an electric jet engine that time would at least double? Triple? One hour between recharges? Two to three hours to recharge, assuming advances in battery and recharging technology? But only 6-10 passengers at a time…. well, why not?
Since high speed rail can’t reach the islands, use low speed air!

A. G. Reid
March 30, 2019 2:31 pm

Has no one noticed that April 1st is imminent?

Gunga Din
March 30, 2019 2:42 pm

“This is a GREAT idea. All they have to do is put a windmill behind each propeller!” – AOC

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
March 30, 2019 2:45 pm

In logic there is an informal fallacy called “converse accident”, which means assuming that an exceptional case establishes a general rule.

Many stories about electric vehicles — particularly ships and planes — are cases of converse accident. Can you make an electric plane to carry passengers and cargo? Certainly. Does that mean electric planes can compete with conventionally fueled ones in cost and passenger appeal? Not at all.

As others have noted, in aircraft design weight is one of the top concerns — perhaps the top concern. This is why we build aircraft with aluminum, which is far lighter than steel for the same strength (wood and doped canvas being frowned on these days for safety reasons).

Getting a plane in the air requires generating sufficient lift by moving air past the wings to at least equal the total weight of the aircraft and fuel and passengers and cargo. Generating more lift always creates more drag, which requires more thrust to maintain forward airspeed. More thrust expends more energy, which reduces range. With a conventional aircraft engine consuming fuel reduces the total weight of the aircraft, which reduces the thrust required to maintain a given speed and altitude.

The emphasis on weight explains why small aircraft do not use diesel engines. Although more efficient than gasoline engines, the greater weight of the engine and fuel cancels out these advantages and then some. (The German Zeppelins used diesel engines, but I’m not aware of any others).

So basically, anything which increases the weight of an aircraft is an undesirable feature.

A commercial air service operator has the standard mix of capital costs and operating costs. Once purchased or leased an aircraft costs money every day, whether used or not. Actually flying it incurs additional operating costs: fuel, crew and insurance. The general goal of commercial operators is to keep an aircraft in the air with paying passengers and cargo as much of the time as possible. An aircraft that can be turned around (unloaded, refueled, re-provisioned and new passengers boarded) quickly is more likely to make a profit than one that has to sit on the ground for several hours between flights. Granted, electricity is going to be cheaper than jet fuel, but if it requires two electric planes to get the same effective carrying capacity as one fossil-fueled one, the fuel savings are unlikely to make up the increased capital costs.

Then there are traveler choices; in some places in the world passengers still get them. I can fly from Atlanta to Seattle non-stop in about 5 and a quarter hours. The unofficial Delta Skymiles calculator calls this 2,166 air miles, for an average speed of 413 miles per hour, or 665 km/hr. What would entice me to add three or four multi-hour stops to that trip to recharge batteries? It would take a very substantial discount, which means the electric aircraft operator has to make a profit on a lower fare, while carrying a larger inventory of aircraft. Impossible? probably not. Extremely unlikely? Certainly.

Back to the exceptional case which is the subject of this news story. Inquiring minds want to know more about the operator’s decision to convert this aircraft to electric. Is there some grant money that’s paying for this? Was the aircraft facing a required major engine overhaul the operator couldn’t justify? The article mentions the savings in engine overhaul, otherwise required every 2,500-3,000 hours. Since this is new regulatory territory they shouldn’t count on savings just yet; the FAA may require regular battery servicing based on discharge cycles or some other criteria. Again, converse accident: don’t assume one exception establishes the general case.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
March 31, 2019 4:28 am

“The German Zeppelins used diesel engines, but I’m not aware of any others”

There have actually been a number of diesel aircraft engines, but none really successful. For military applications the big problem was actually the need for frequent and extreme changes of output, which diesel engines do not take kindly to.

John Garrett
March 30, 2019 2:54 pm

I ain’t getting on that thing.

Period. Full stop.

Margaret Smith
March 30, 2019 2:56 pm

Would have to go into the past, as with windmills, and start an airship line. Helium filled for take off and height and batteries for propulsion. Great! But slow. Otherwise the same problems with the source of the electricity. How would you like to fly (float) to Australia? Imagine all those airships arriving in Cancun or Lima for a climate conference.

March 30, 2019 3:28 pm

Harbour Air suggests 60-100 mi is all they will need carrying the heavy loads of virtue signalling Greens commuting from Vancouver to their nests in the Gulf Islands. Government worker bees many of them.
How much of the 2100 lb payload will remain will be interesting to know.

The Electric Beaver fleet will be useless in emergencies as search and reconnaissance so I imagine that will need to be replaced with longer range FF aircraft on standby.

Scouser in AZ
Reply to  Betapug
March 30, 2019 4:42 pm

At least they will be flying over water and can land anywhere safely. I see no passenger risk.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Scouser in AZ
March 30, 2019 5:38 pm

I guess you don’t get many oceanic storms and raging seas in Arizona, Scouser.

Kurt in Switzerland
March 30, 2019 3:40 pm

e-Planes will offer either payload or range, but not both.

I wonder whether the enthusiasm will maintain its present buoyed nature after the first e-plane death.

March 30, 2019 3:54 pm

“It would be a staged situation because the range of the (electric) aircraft presently, with the present battery capacity, would be around a half an hour with a half-an-hour reserve.

“But that’s changing very rapidly with the development of the battery technology.”

Of course that airport operates with instantaneous efficiency where planes can get clearance and take off immediately maximizing that battery for transport purposes?

And the same with wherever the planes intend to land.

Quick battery charging requires 240 volt high amperage charging stations.
I doubt there are a lot of rural locations capable of installing fifty amp charge stations. Meaning that airline must stick to urbanized well gridded areas. Where the local electric supply line carries sufficient voltage and amperage without using the entire neighborhood’s potential.

Someone should insist that these planes must be recharged solely by wind or solar.
I can just imagine one of these planes, forced to emergency land where there isn’t a charging station? Perhaps the pilot will carry a portable solar kit?

John in Oz
March 30, 2019 4:08 pm

When all of the coal mines and oil wells are closed down due to everything being electric-powered, how do they intend building more planes without the plastics/aluminium (sic – I’m an Aussie)/CARBON fibre and every other material that requires high energy density fossil fuels?

Toom in Florida
March 30, 2019 7:07 pm

Why don’t they just go back to dirigibles with electric motors for propulsion? Seems that is a known technology.

Rhoda R
Reply to  Toom in Florida
March 30, 2019 10:42 pm

Actually makes more sense than these electric airplane ideas.

March 30, 2019 7:15 pm

‘“With magniX’s new propulsion systems, coupled with emerging battery capabilities, we see tremendous potential for electric aviation to transform this heavily trafficked ‘middle mile’ range,” he said in a statement.’

Why? They never say WHY they are going to do this transition. Is going electric its own reward?

March 30, 2019 7:49 pm

I’ve been flying electric (model) planes for years, the same equations work as full size.

The basic idea is sound except for the usual problem.


Recharge time for standard lipoly batteries is one hour
Maintenance is zero on motor – just bearings, motor and gearbox.
All throttling done with electronic units. No moving parts

Ideal power train. Just wont fly you for much more than an hour.
Not today, not ever. unless you change the laws of chemistry.
Maybe lithium air will work. Then its as good energy density as fuel. But lithium air is lab tech. Years away. an not very safe

Reply to  Leo Smith
March 31, 2019 4:41 am

One big problem with lithium-air for aircraft: WEIGHT

Li + O2 -> LiO2

6.9 + 32 -> 38.9

So each pound of lithium will suck 4.6 pounds of oxygen out of the air an into the aircraft as the battery discharges. The aircraft not only does not get lighter as it flies, it grows heavier. So MLW will have to be larger than MTOW.

Reply to  Leo Smith
March 31, 2019 8:47 am

Yep. You are right on the money.

The problem is weight-per-kWh, especially relevant for aircraft (compared to landcraft). Doesn’t matter how we twist it, kg/kWh is the defining throttle on the practical utility of e-aircraft. Because as any plane owner will tell you, its a tradeoff: kg for passengers and payload, or kg for fuel, for creature comforts, for add-ons (like water landing gear).

Present battery tech — not the stuff being announced, but actual presently available best-of-breed — is appallingly poor in the mass-per-kilowatt-hour. I don’t think there are any available packaged-to-go batteries that do better (lower) than 3 kg/kWh. The Tesla Model S (85 kWh) weighs 540 kg as a pack, for a specific energy of 6 kg/kWh. The 75 kWh Model 3 battery is 460 kg, again achieving 6.2 kg/kWh.

By comparison, the Pratt & Whitney PT₆ turboprop (750 SHP ÷ 560 kW) engine requires 0.36 kg/kWh of fuel-to-power-output. Just kind of puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?

Just saying,
GoatGuy ✓

March 30, 2019 8:49 pm


Bruce of Newcastle
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
March 31, 2019 7:36 pm

Um, no.

Norway’s plan for a fleet of electric planes (BBC, Aug 2018)

The climatistas really are into electric aircraft. Be afraid. Especially if you have to fly in one.

March 30, 2019 8:52 pm

Fossil fuel aircraft have the remarkable characteristic of getting lighter (and more efficient) as they go . . . the above is what stupid looks like.

March 30, 2019 9:19 pm

Hmmm . . . . should I anti-ice and kill the batteries, or not anti-ice, and crash with power? What does the manufacturer say? “Flight in icing conditions prohibited” “Not certificated for flight in icing conditions” “FOR AMUSEMENT ONLY”

March 30, 2019 9:40 pm

Yet another story about the wonderful future and what people are going to do. If they have found a way, if they really plan to convert the whole fleet, why are they not doing it instead of bumping their gums? Why not just blow us all away with the first flight of useful range/duration and payload?

Just more talk about what people are “gunna” do or think they can do. Just shut up and show me.

March 30, 2019 10:01 pm

I am of the opinion that this COULD work right now for smaller aircraft which have small passenger counts as well as a very limited range. The R/C (radio control) aircraft hobby has made some drastic changes in going to electric engines, even ducted fans, in the past 15 or so years. The energy density increase with LiIon cells can make this a reality with the only weight penalty I see being the backup battery systems which will undoubtedly be required.

These battery cell will require a lot of cooling, just like the Tesla Wall battery, and can be modular which could also remedy risk from individual cell explosion, where if one or two modules fail, the rest of the primary battery system should be able to maintain flight. The modular system would also enable easy swap out by hand to recharged modules when the aircraft landed, no different than fueling an aircraft with fossil fuel. Still they would need a manual switch in pilot’s immediate access to switch over to an auxiliary (secondary) battery system in case of a catastrophic battery failure.

The airports that have terminals which these aircraft fly out of would need upgraded electric distribution to handle the heavy load fast charging these units would require, but again, this is very doable.

My only real negative concern lies with seeing floats on these planes. Are they suggesting that these float planes will be able to grab an existing charged battery from a normal but fairly isolated destination where the plane needs to land on water? If the areas has reliable electric, maybe they can overcome this obstacle.

Now is this technology ready for prime time air travel? Absolutely not. The range, speed and capacity would be very limited and this falls more into a niche market rather than a mainstream one. However that is NOT saying there won’t be technological advances in batteries which could better address mainstream air travel in the future.

In conclusion, I see this as very doable in this particular niche market with today’s technology. As I said above, R/C aircraft hobby has already proven the technology to be robust and reliable as long as there is a method to swap out and charge battery cells easily and at each destination, with charged units already waiting as the aircraft lands.

Reply to  KS_Referee
March 31, 2019 4:48 am

“Still they would need a manual switch in pilot’s immediate access to switch over to an auxiliary (secondary) battery system in case of a catastrophic battery failure.”

If there is a catastrophic battery failure with a li-ion battery there is only one alternative. Get onto ground (or sea) FAST. No need for secondary systems. If the battery pack is close to the cockpit emergency oxygen masks might be a good idea though.

Reply to  KS_Referee
March 31, 2019 4:55 am

One more thing. Since endurance will be critically limited electrical aircraft will probably need to be towed instead of taxying. Particularly at busy airports with queuing aircraft.

This would not be entirely novel. The russians did it with their first jet Tu-104, which was actually a modified Tu-16 medium bomber. The AM-3 engines did not have good fuel economy at low power to put things mildly.

Flight Level
Reply to  tty
March 31, 2019 8:01 am

Towing assisted takeoff of a waterborne in remote location bushplane on floats could rapidly turn graphic.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Flight Level
March 31, 2019 2:42 pm

They could carry a supply of JATOs. But that would increase the the weight.

If I remember correctly, a brief (very, very brief) competitor with the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) was an Internal Gunpowder Combustion Engine.
Carbon was involved but no fossil fuels. AOC hates fossil fuels. She should love it! (Of course more research is need.)

Hmmm … I wonder she confuses ICE with ICE and that’s why she won’t vote to fund it?
Shallow waters can have confusing currents.

Reply to  KS_Referee
March 31, 2019 5:03 am

“However that is NOT saying there won’t be technological advances in batteries which could better address mainstream air travel in the future.”

There won’t. It is strange that people don’t seem to understand that batteries will for ever be limited by the number of valence electrons per atom that can be pushed around a circuit. Lithium is already the best element in this respect and lithium-air (lithium-oxygen really) is the most power-dense reaction feasible. There simply aren’t any better atoms around (though the increasing weight during discharge will be a problem for aircraft).

Reply to  tty
April 2, 2019 7:00 am

Honestly, you don’t know what technological advances can or cannot happen in the future any more than anyone else. Why would anyone, given the amount of scientific and technological advances made just in the past 50 years, definitively say something cannot be done? I’ve seen unimaginably fascinating innovation and technological advances just in my lifetime. So for someone to say something absolutely cannot be done, I believe that is very close minded.

Reply to  KS_Referee
March 31, 2019 6:10 pm

Again, KS_Referee, WHY?

It’s a technical maybe. But WHY do it? It’s going to be extremely expensive. What are they going to get for their money?

Reply to  Gamecock
April 2, 2019 6:39 am

Why? Who cares why? It’s their money as well as their investor’s and their customer’s money. I’m all for free market innovation, as long as the people and companies wanting to do these things spend their own money on the projects. It’s when the government steps in, compelling tax payers to pay for some pie in the sky nonsense, that I have a problem.

Now if someone were to ask me if “I” would consider doing something like this if I owned a company like that? My answer would be a sound, “No.” I’m still of the opinion that fossil fuel provides unmatched energy density as well as portability.

What I won’t do is badmouth a company willing to put THEIR money where their mouth is, in an attempt to do what they believe is right. However the second they hold their hand out, demanding a tax break or worse yet, tax payer money in any form to pay for their idea, THEN I’ll take a stand against them. Until then… more power to them.

Donald Kasper
March 30, 2019 11:12 pm

The person who proposed that should be retired from the company. He has clearly suffered a mental breakdown.

March 30, 2019 11:54 pm

I can tell that the critics on these pages did not think this all the way through.
Obviously this plane will fly and will never run out of power.
All that is needed is for a wind turbine be installed on the tail.
Then, when the plane is flying, the wind created by the spinning propellers will spin the turbine. The turbine will then charge the batteries. The plane will never be short of power.
Obviously, if the plane is used only for short haul flights, it will generate excess electricity. This can be sold back into the grid; thereby cutting operating costs even more.

March 31, 2019 4:21 am

This operator has a schedule with 20 minute flights, so it is a rare case where battery technology could work… on paper. Perhaps they will have a pod under the fuselage for the battery pack and swap it out during each turnaround. As stated earlier, it will require about the equivalent of 3-5 Tesla S battery packs to handle the huge current loads and capacity requirement, so almost the entire payload will be consumed by battery, probably requiring extreme payload restrictions and resulting very high fares, but there is likely a well-heeled “virtue market” at that location. I hope the operator maintains dock cams to capture the first time they drop a charged pack into the water. This being commercial operations, the propeller/engine/airframe/battery combination will require certification which will make this “test” case very expensive.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” — Yogi Berra

Reply to  Sciguy54
March 31, 2019 9:37 am

“I hope the operator maintains dock cams to capture the first time they drop a charged pack into the water. ”

I agree. It would be rather like accidentally dropping an armed depth charge – everybody running away and wondering how long before it goes boom.

Reply to  Sciguy54
March 31, 2019 9:53 am

“This being commercial operations, the propeller/engine/airframe/battery combination will require certification which will make this “test” case very expensive”

Possibly not. They may be planning to claim “grandfather rights”. The Beaver is a very old aircraft type so it may well have been certified by Part 3 rules rather than Part 23. Most utility aircraft were before 1965. Part 3 was quite lenient. That might explain why they are modifying such an old design rather than something more modern.

Reply to  tty
March 31, 2019 12:39 pm

It is a ‘Major Repair/Modification’ and not unregulated by any stretch of the imagination – you can’t just alter an aircraft without voiding the airworthiness certificate.

It would be an”STC”, standard type certificate.

Tom in Florida
March 31, 2019 5:52 am

The cost problem is not one of convincing people to be a passenger, it will be convincing the insurance company that the risk to the passengers is not any greater than it is now.

M__ S__
March 31, 2019 7:08 am

Do the math.

Energy density:

Gasoline: 46 MJ / Kg
Lithium Ion Battery: <1 MJ / Kg

John Tillman
Reply to  M__ S__
March 31, 2019 1:42 pm

The theoretical maximum specific energy of lithium-air batteries is over 40 MJ/Kg. That’s close to jet fuel’s 42.8 MJ/Kg.

Fuel cells are essentially batteries with MJ/Kg comparable to jet fuel. So it’s theoretically possible for electric propulsion to rival the energy density of turboprops, but, as always, the devil is in the chemical engineering details.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 31, 2019 2:42 pm

As someone pointed out there is a vast difference between theoretical and practical. Practical LI-air batteries only get about 6 Mj/Kg. MIT supposedly developed a LI-oxygen battery using “solid” oxygen (I think that is oxygen trapped in something like glass) cathodes back in 2016 but after three years they have yet to produce a commercially viable product. It supposedly gets around many of the problems with a LI-air battery but I don’t think they ever established what the practical output of the battery would be.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.

Melvyn Dackombe
March 31, 2019 9:21 am

Why bother.

John Ray
March 31, 2019 11:22 am

On the test flight mentioned above, I read that the pilot and “passenger” had strict diet requirements. I also have noted that HA passengers are mostly government employees. I rarely have seen an underweight government employee. Just saying

March 31, 2019 1:18 pm

“Harbour Air is embarking on what is believed to be a world first, adding an electric plane to its fleet”. They are to test an electric-powered Cessna Caravan in August 2019.

Harbor Air has to get Transport Canada approval. If TC say no they can always blame it on them.

Reply to  E.S.
March 31, 2019 1:40 pm

TC approval won’t suffice. It is a US-built aircraft certified by FAA to Part 23 standards, so they will have to get a supplementary type certificate from FAA for such a major modification. Otherwise it won’t be airworthy. And as I said above Part 23 is pretty tough.

The underbelly cargo pod would be handy for the batteries, but I’m not sure if it can be used with the floatplane version.

john york
March 31, 2019 4:38 pm

I’m wondering about weight differential between an electric motor and a gas engine. The Beaver currently uses a Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp engine weighing 620 lbs. Westinghouse currently sells a 750 HP electric motor that weighs 4,410 lbs. Installing it on a 6,000 lb Beaver sounds optimistic. This does not include the weight of the batteries, significantly heavier than the fuel carried on the Beaver.

March 31, 2019 6:36 pm


See the photos in that link. It does not look big or heavy; it looks quite nice.
That is the 350 hp model, the Magni250. It weighs 110 pounds. The 750 hp model is called Magni500.
They use an oil-based liquid cooling system. The 750 hp model is called Magni500 and is said to be a bolt-in replacement for a Pratt and Whitney PT6 turboprop engine. MagniX claims 5 kW/kg and is working on improving that.

First spin video:

It’s nice to see the R&D on the motors. Now, about that R&D on the batteries…

March 31, 2019 6:50 pm

The key is that battery electric is actually cheaper to operate for short run 1-200km trip services, cost per kWh of the energy used on the plane is only about $0.2/kWh including battery life costs, vs $0.25-0.35/kWh if powered by an IC engine running on Aviation fuel including engine maintenance costs.

With long/skinny (high aspect ratio wings) ranges of up to 4-500km are possible. There are 5 passenger electric VTOL planes being tested now with ranges of 200km (120miles) plus 30minute reserve. For the ferry-replacement mission that this business has that sort of range is enough, they might need extra planes to provide the same number of flights, but cost of borrowing is very low these days making that less of an issue than energy and maintenance costs.

A plane with battery swapping would make fast turn-around feasible, or add a stand-by generator for emergency range extension (not needed on vast majority of trips) – so that in effect still running on batteries almost always.

Mike Borgelt
April 1, 2019 3:35 am

You need to realise how Aussie R&D works. Come up with some project. Mention “Greenhouse gases “, “climate change” etc . Apply for government R&D grant. Get grant. Pay yourselves handsomely for several years until grant money runs out. Fold company due to inability to find suckers, er, backers to continue. Rinse and repeat.

April 1, 2019 5:35 pm

Maybe… A lot of assumptions here, but conceivably you could get about 400kg payload and fly for an hour. This doesn’t account for the fact that an airplane gets lighter as the fuel is used.

There, I built a mathematical model. Therefore it can fly…

DeHavilland Beaver
FuelCons 19 gph at cruise. About 6 hours.
Content 44.65 MJ/kg
density 690 kg/m^3
Gal/m^3 264.162 gal/m^3
m^3/hr 0.071925561 m^3/hr
kg/hr 49.62863697 kg/hr
sec/hr 3600
j/hr 2215918641 j/hr
watts 615532.9558 W gross
efficiency 0.28 guess
watts usable 172349.2276 W net
cruise hp 231.0311362 hp
hp 450 standard
flight time 1 hour (1/2 hour flight, 1/2 hour reserve)
efficiency electric 0.9
joules stored 689,396,910.48 J
lithium storage min 0.36 MJ/kg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery
lithium storage max 0.875 MJ/kg
lithium storage used 0.875 MJ/kg
kg batteries 787.8821834 kg

current fuel capacity 95 gal
fuel weight 6 lb/gal
fuel weight 570 lb
fuel weight 258.5034014 kg
payload freed 258.5034014 kg
payload added 787.8821834 kg
net payload increase 529.378782 kg
total payload std 953 kg
new payload 423.621218 kg
new payload 934.0847856 lb

April 8, 2019 3:13 pm

“The intent is to eventually convert the whole fleet,” said Harbour Air’s founder and CEO. Greg McDougall. of the move to electric planes. “It would be a staged situation because the range of the (electric) aircraft presently, with the present battery capacity, would be around a half an hour with a half-an-hour reserve.
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