Dezeen Magazine

World's first commercial electric plane takes off near Vancouver

The world's first commercial all-electric plane, the six-seater Harbour Air ePlane with an engine designed by Australian engineering firm MagniX, has taken flight in Canada.

Operated by Harbour Air the six-seater, all-electric commercial seaplane completed a test flight in Canada, marking a "world-first milestone".

The Harbour Air ePlane performed a 15-minute trial flight in the city of Richmond, south of Vancouver, on 10 December. It was piloted by Harbour Air CEO and founder Greg McDougall.

"Today, we made history," said McDougall. "I am incredibly proud of Harbour Air's leadership role in re-defining safety and innovation in the aviation and seaplane industry."

ePlane by Harbour Air and MagniX

"Canada has long held an iconic role in the history of aviation, and to be part of this incredible world-first milestone is something we can all be really proud of," McDougall added.

The flight forms the beginning of a collaboration between MagniX and Harbour Air, which are aiming to create an all-electric commercial seaplane fleet across British Columbia. The companies said the successful test demonstrates that this type of aviation is possible.

"In December 1903, the Wright Brothers launched a new era of transportation – the aviation age – with the first flight of a powered aircraft," said MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski.

ePlane by Harbour Air and MagniX

"Today, 116 years later, with the first flight of an all-electric powered commercial aircraft, we launched the electric era of aviation."

The Harbour Air ePlane is a six-passenger small aircraft, also known as a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver. It has a 750-horsepower (560 kW) high-power-density electric propulsion system developed by MagniX, called Magni500.

The all-electric propulsion technology was unveiled in June this year at the Paris Air Show, demonstrating a clean and efficient way to power aeroplanes.

The venture marks the latest progression in all-electric flight, as part of a drive to fight climate change. A number of other companies are currently developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVTOL) aircraft – including Boeing, Rolls Royce and Uber for commercial use.

Earlier this year German startup Lilium revealed its prototype for a five-seater jet-powered electric air taxi. The company hopes to have the fleet in operation by 2025.

Norway has also revealed plans to replace all of its fuel-guzzling jets with electric planes on all domestic flights by 2040. Olaf Mosvold Larsen of state airport group Avinor told Dezeen in an interview earlier this year that, with the change, aviation could become "more sustainable than road and rail".

Harbour Air hopes to develop an all-electric commercial fleet, which it believes will disrupt the aviation industry.

"The transportation industry and specifically the aviation segment that has been, for the most part, stagnant since the late 1930s, is ripe for a massive disruption," Ganzarski added.

ePlane by Harbour Air and MagniX

"Now we are proving that low-cost, environmentally friendly, commercial electric air travel can be a reality in the very near future."

MagniX and Harbour Air will now focus on the certification process for the propulsion system, before retrofitting more aircrafts.

Among the main challenges of the project to create commercial vessels that can carry more than six people, is advancements in batteries need to be made to reduce them in size.