Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

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Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by enbt » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:58 am

I thought this may have been an early April Fool's article when I saw the headline. From the Globe and Mail.


Top seaplane airline Harbour Air switching to battery-powered aircraft
IAN BAILEY
VANCOUVER
PUBLISHED 5 HOURS AGO
UPDATED MARCH 25, 2019
15 COMMENTS
Open this photo in gallery
Greg McDougall, CEO of Harbour Air Seaplanes, at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre in Vancouver, on March 25, 2019.

DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Seaplane operator Harbour Air, which regularly shuttles B.C.'s political class to and from Victoria, is looking to become the first all-electric fleet of commercial planes in Canada – but the company head says passengers have nothing to fear.

Greg McDougall, founder of the company that bills itself as North America’s largest seaplane airline, said Monday that “I’ll be the first guy to fly one. I’ll be the test pilot of it.” He was referring to an electric-powered prototype the company will test within months as a prelude to electrifying the fleet within about two years.

By November, the company is planning to be testing a de Havilland Canada DHC 2 Beaver, a six-passenger aircraft equipped with an all-electric motor developed by magniX, a company based in Redmond, Wash. MagniX has been crafting the technology on the ground, but has yet to operate it in an aircraft.

“I wouldn’t put myself in there if I thought there was a problem. I certainly wouldn’t put my loved ones in there if I thought there was a problem – or my passengers," Mr. McDougall said.

“We have to prove a standard of safety that’s equal to or better than what we currently have.”

Mr. McDougall, who founded Harbour Air in 1982 with a pair of small seaplanes, says he is making the shift to keep ahead of the electrification of transportation, and also to reduce the company’s environmental impact.

He said his company is in a unique position to advance the concept of electric flight because its flights are relatively short, with average lengths of about 30 minutes in single-engine aircraft that don’t require as much power or battery capacity as other aircraft.

The company also has flights to and from destinations such as Nanaimo, B.C., and Tofino, B.C., on Vancouver Island as well as Whistler, B.C., , Sechelt, B.C., and Salt Spring Island, B.C., among other locations. They carry about 500,000 passengers a year.

Steve Holding, chief instructor for aviation technical programs at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, said electric flight is being developed but without breakthroughs on the scale Harbour Air is proposing.

“Powering a larger aircraft with batteries is still really a huge technical challenge just because of the weight of batteries required to put out the power to allow a larger aircraft to take off and climb – one I wish we could overcome as quickly as possible,” he said.



Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of magniX, agreed on the battery issue. “Battery density is not where we want it to be for long-range flying, similar to where automobiles were seven years ago,” he said in an interview.

However, he said the company has been working on the technology, and electric makes sense for Harbour Air, which would not have to significantly change their operations for electric flight.

Asked about whether he had ever heard of an airline anywhere executing the idea, Mr. Holding referred to a media report from late 2018 about an airline using small aircraft in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago off Scotland’s northeastern coast, looking at the idea.

Like Alberta and Quebec, British Columbia’s legislature is not in the province’s largest city. While Vancouver is B.C’s urban centre, the legislature, and key offices of the civil service, are in Victoria more than 100 kilometres south across the Georgia Strait. That creates a need for movement between the two cities that is met by the ferries, commercial helicopter flights, and by Harbour Air.

The airline, which has a fleet of about 40 aircraft, will eventually face a path of approval from Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency – flights to and from Seattle are among the dozen routes it offers.

Mr. McDougall said the company has already been in touch with regulators in both countries.

He said this shift is not a whim, but a mandate he handed to his executive team. It took off when he made a connection with magniX.

“We were already on the pathway of trying to figure this out and then we met the magniX people, who had a common code with us, which was to pioneer this. They obviously have a commercial reason for doing that,” he said.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by digits_ » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:07 am

Nice that they are trying it. Kind of curious how that will all work out, probably more of a publicity stunt, but still nice they are trying. It would be a nice fit for the operation though: short hops, open water on floats, so plenty of landing options if something were to go wrong. Hope it works out.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by C-GGGQ » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:12 am

As much as most of us have nostalgic love of the old radials... Not like they aren't just that, old. I'm sure an electric motor would have better reliability than a piston let alone old radials,(debatable once you get to turbines probably) the distance is also in Harbour Air's favour. Much more feasible from a battery perspective on those shortish hops.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by Meatservo » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:47 am

April fools day is still a week away. I wonder if this management teams' delusions of grandeur are starting to result in some disordered thinking.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by RebelCFTQC » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:23 am

https://www.magnix.aero/products/

At 265 lbs for 750HP they can put a few batteries in. What do those radials + 2 hrs fuel weigh?
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by Heliian » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:14 am

RebelCFTQC wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:23 am
https://www.magnix.aero/products/

At 265 lbs for 750HP they can put a few batteries in. What do those radials + 2 hrs fuel weigh?
R985 is about 650 lbs dry, so about 390 lbs gain.

But....add in wiring and controllers, remove fuel system components.

The question is always the battery. How far can you get per KG. Now you fill it with batteries, what is the safety like compared to a gas?

I like the forward thinking to drive change. Hybrid engines are coming out now https://www.safran-group.com/media/2012 ... ng-hybrids
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by C-GGGQ » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:17 am

True batteries are very bad in a crash, however, even an avgas powered Navajo has proved to be awful combustible in a crash. So might be a wash safety wise. Once a planes on fire tends to burn to the ground no matter what.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by complexintentions » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:39 am

RebelCFTQC wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:23 am
https://www.magnix.aero/products/

At 265 lbs for 750HP they can put a few batteries in. What do those radials + 2 hrs fuel weigh?
You can't compare weight pound for pound.
Low energy-to-weight ratio in terms of net calorific value (NCV), as well as a relatively short life span, makes batteries unsuitable beyond a given application.While fossil fuel delivers a NCV of 12,000Wh/kg, a manganese type lithium-ion battery offers 120Wh/kg, which is one hundred times less per weight. Even at a low efficiency of 25 percent, the internal combustion engine outperforms the best battery in terms of energy-to-weight ratio. The capacity of a battery would need to increase twenty-fold before it could compete head-to-head with fossil fuel.

Another limitation of battery propulsion over fossil fuel is the fuel by weight. While the weight diminishes as it is being consumed, the battery has the same deadweight whether fully charged or empty. This puts limitations on EV driving distance and would make the electric airplane impractical. Furthermore, the combustion engine delivers full power at freezing temperatures and continues to perform well with advancing age, a trait that is not achievable with the battery. A battery that is a few years old may deliver only half of the rated capacity.
Hopefully the limitations will be solved eventually, but they're nowhere near yet. Thus, a publicity stunt. Sure you can jam some batteries in and take a small payload, but that will have to compete with conventional aircraft operating cheaper with much larger payloads. Hmm.

Not sure how electric is always touted as environmentally friendly - the energy in the batteries is generated somewhere and li-ion batteries are horrendous on the environment. Especially if they're manufactured on a scale, and of sufficient capacity, to power commercial transport.

But hey it sounds cool.

Meat, my first thought was April Fool's as well! :mrgreen:
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by TWSC » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:05 pm

Wonder what TC, and the public for that matter, will think about this given the recent discussion around the safety of float ops. I can't see this battery/electric power plant tech fairing too well in a crash either in the water or on land.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by Meatservo » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:23 pm

I suppose I'm a bit put off by the Magnix website, with photoshopped pictures of Caravans, Twin Otters, and King Airs zooming around in the company colours with their exhaust pipes airbrushed out, while meanwhile the only depiction of any substance is a picture of a test rig comprised of a decapitated caravan with a 350- horsepower motor which only just succeeded in spinning a prop. Maybe they're on the verge of a breakthrough, but MacDougall's boasting that he's going to be the test pilot, (well, no you're not, Doug) and that it's all coming about in two years all sounds like a lot of feathers and not much chicken. Harbour Air has a very experienced marketing team that is quite adept at playing to the West-Coast sensibilities of its target audience.

Anyway, like someone said earlier, how is an electric beaver or an Otter "green"? The environmental "friendliness" of an electric motor depends entirely on where you get the electricity from. I suppose it's an easier way to make a plane run on coal than trying to make the plane burn coal directly.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by iflyforpie » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:55 pm

Electricity is always going to be ‘greener’ than vehicle mounted internal combustion engines. Even a coal plant is going to have better thermodynamic efficiency and lower emissions per watt/hp produced because of economies of scale and the ability to install very large and heavy but effective scrubbers.

In the aircraft I’m assuming that they will be able to use the prop as a dynamic brake as well to recharge the batteries.

I agree that it is probably a pipe dream, but one that is getting closer. Whether it be prices or scarcity or environmental damage it’s likely that fossil fuel usage will peak and wane, and that will drive innovation in renewable energy and electric propulsion.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by fish4life » Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:44 pm

If there is an operation where the distance between legs will allow this to make sense it’s probably harbour air. The most interesting thing for me is how an electric motor will hold up to the corrosion of a salt water life
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by TWSC » Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:13 pm

fish4life wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:44 pm
If there is an operation where the distance between legs will allow this to make sense it’s probably harbour air. The most interesting thing for me is how an electric motor will hold up to the corrosion of a salt water life
The legs are short enough but how fast will the batteries run out of charge and have to be recharged, and then when that does happen how long does the recharging take? It'd have to be stupid fast to maintain a similar operation, and I can't see it being the same as throwing 29gal in and going.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by goingnowherefast » Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:53 pm

Replaceable batteries? Plane pulls up, swap out the battery pack while loading bags, pax on and go. There would have to be a mammoth charging station at every base with dozens of batteries recharging.

I'd just assume that the batteries would take the place of the fuel tanks. Can't be too difficult to make a contraption to slide in between the belly and the floats to swap out the packs.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by lownslow » Tue Mar 26, 2019 5:07 pm

Meatservo wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:23 pm
with photoshopped pictures of Caravans, with their exhaust pipes airbrushed out
It's much simpler than that, they just took a picture of the left side of the plane and flipped it to look like the right. Take a look, the exhaust is still there on the far side.
Image
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by TheRealMcCoy » Tue Mar 26, 2019 6:26 pm

No more 5 minute turnarounds. Unless a charge can last an entire day... This is silly.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by rookiepilot » Tue Mar 26, 2019 6:36 pm

I'd be getting very scared for Albertas long term future.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by TheStig » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:22 pm

Disclosure: I'm a card carrying anti-tax, pro-pipeline conservative. I think this plan has merit.

As far as the how 'green' are electric vehicles? These aircraft would be charged by BC's hydro-electic dams, they are the automatically the cleanest powered aircraft ever. They are powered by precipitation, without even discussing the efficiency of the engines.

But setting aside all that, as a diehard capitalist, I have to ask, is there a business case for this? The big issue I'd have, is the the market big enough to pay for the R&D? Is the risk worth being the first mover?

From an engineering perspective this seems do-able. As a guideline, a Tesla model S has a 100KwHr battery and draws 750(ish) HP and at 'high' power settings has 2-3 hours of endurance. I don't know how much the battery weighs on that car 2500 lbs? 3000lbs? With only 9 passengers on board a single Otter has a lot of available room to add weight before hitting MTOW. The same arguement can be made for the Beaver, the motor + battery weight can far exceed the current engine + fuel weight because the existing airframes were designed to carry SO MUCH more than these flight profiles require.

Charging stations could be installed to add more than enough charge to keep these aircraft flying during the morning and afternoon rush periods. I assume all of these potential obstacles have been assessed as not inhibiting. What if for the cost of a PT-6 you could install a battery pack that drops the operating cost of an Otter from 60 gallons per hour to $20 of electricity? The potential is a leap, whereby you either have this aircraft or you go out of business.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by fish4life » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:39 pm

Tesla was looking at a battery swap thing years ago not sure if that style would work but that’s what I was thinking.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by jakeandelwood » Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:39 pm

I imagine they will have that STC "within months" :lol:
This Magnix and Mr. McDougall seem pretty nonchalant about the battery issue and the magnitude of what they are going to do.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by shimmydampner » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:39 am

Reminds me of the time several years ago when Discovery Air (Tindi) made a similarly bold PR move when they signed on to be the first heavy lift blimp operator in the north. I guess it never materialized in time to save them.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by 200hr Wonder » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:51 am

I laugh at all the nay sayers... we need to stick to our 100 year old piston engines damit. Probably would have said the same thing when the first turbojets showed up. Time between overhaul is too short! The internal tmerpatures are too hot! The tolerances are to tight! The fuel burn is too high! Look where we are now.

This a start and a step in the right direction. There are so many hurdles to overcome yes but this could certainly be the future for short hops, training aircraft, GA and so on in the mid term. Perhaps even airliners in the further future. Start somewhere dream big!
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by jakeandelwood » Wed Mar 27, 2019 1:35 pm

I'm not naysaying, I personally think alternative fuels are the future though, but having a glitzy website and bolting a propeller to a large electric motor on a test bench is hardly an accomplishment. Large electric motors are nothing new, and producing one to propel an aircraft is the easy part, the battery issue will always be the hard part with anything driven with an electric motor and that will be an accomplishment when someone comes up with a practical battery solution that can power this motor for a reasonable amount of time at a reasonable, workable weight, weight will be the biggest obstacle obviously.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by Tail-Chaser » Wed Mar 27, 2019 2:51 pm

TheStig wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:22 pm
Disclosure: I'm a card carrying anti-tax, pro-pipeline conservative. I think this plan has merit.

As far as the how 'green' are electric vehicles? These aircraft would be charged by BC's hydro-electic dams, they are the automatically the cleanest powered aircraft ever. They are powered by precipitation, without even discussing the efficiency of the engines.

But setting aside all that, as a diehard capitalist, I have to ask, is there a business case for this? The big issue I'd have, is the the market big enough to pay for the R&D? Is the risk worth being the first mover?

From an engineering perspective this seems do-able. As a guideline, a Tesla model S has a 100KwHr battery and draws 750(ish) HP and at 'high' power settings has 2-3 hours of endurance. I don't know how much the battery weighs on that car 2500 lbs? 3000lbs? With only 9 passengers on board a single Otter has a lot of available room to add weight before hitting MTOW. The same arguement can be made for the Beaver, the motor + battery weight can far exceed the current engine + fuel weight because the existing airframes were designed to carry SO MUCH more than these flight profiles require.

Charging stations could be installed to add more than enough charge to keep these aircraft flying during the morning and afternoon rush periods. I assume all of these potential obstacles have been assessed as not inhibiting. What if for the cost of a PT-6 you could install a battery pack that drops the operating cost of an Otter from 60 gallons per hour to $20 of electricity? The potential is a leap, whereby you either have this aircraft or you go out of business.
The 85kwh battery weighs 1200 lbs. The 100kwh battery is about 1500lbs.
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Re: Harbour Air switching to battery powered planes

Post by goingnowherefast » Wed Mar 27, 2019 4:55 pm

Lets do some simple math. Beaver uses 260hp in cruise? (approx 28-1800), that's close to 195kw. Now for 1.5 hour endurance (1 hour plus 30 minute "reserve"), that's very close to 300kwh. I know I'm rounding up, but there's gotta be some extra power available for take-off and climb. According to the above post, that's a 4500lb battery pack. I even looked up energy densities on Wikipedia, and it support the claim. Remove 1000lbs of engine, engine accessories and fuel, that's still a 3500 lb increase. Just because I'm dumb and they're smart, lets give a 1000 lb head start and it's still a 2500lb increase. Oh, and I've forgotten the weight of the electric motor and propeller.

Been a while since I was around Beavers, but I think we're already above max take-off weight.
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