Magnix revs up electric motors for Harbour Air seaplane flight tests in December

Alan Boyle
Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX and chairman of Eviation, discusses electric aviation during a meetup in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX, which aims to become the Tesla of aviation, is gearing up for the first flight tests of an all-electric Harbour Air seaplane in British Columbia next month, the company’s CEO says.

But that’s not all: In addition to supplying a 750-horsepower Magni500 motor for use on a de Havilland Beaver that’s being converted to all-electric propulsion at Harbour Air’s B.C. headquarters, MagniX is experimenting on a converted Cessna Citation airplane in Moses Lake, Wash. The company is also laying plans for a next-generation 1,500HP Magni1000 motor.

Those are just some of the projects described by MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski this week during a meet-up presented by Hacker News Seattle Meetup Group and Cofounders Connect at ATLAS Workbase.

Ganzarski spoke in a dual capacity: In addition to his role at MagniX, he’s the chairman of an Israel-based venture called Eviation, which will be using MagniX’s electric propulsion system as an option for its all-electric Alice airplane. The first Alice plane is being prepared for flight testing in Moses Lake.

MagniX and Eviation are subsidiaries of the Singapore-based Clermont Group, and Ganzarski oversees both companies as chairman of Clermont’s aerospace division.

Because the privately held Clermont Group is so well-capitalized, Ganzarski said he doesn’t have to worry about going through the funding rounds that most startups repeatedly require.

“I have the money I need, so I can focus on only what I need to focus on for my goal,” he said. “In 40 years, I want people to be flying only electric, as a natural thing, because of what we did today.”

MagniX’s philosophy is to start small, with short air routes that are well-suited for today’s limited battery capacity. Harbour Air’s short-haul commuter routes are ideal for that purpose, because the flights typically last 30 minutes or less.

Depending on how quickly MagniX and Harbour Air can get through the testing and certification process, Harbour Air’s all-electric planes could begin commercial service by 2022. And if battery technology improves as quickly as anticipated, Harbour Air’s entire fleet of more than 40 seaplanes will be converted to all-electric propulsion.

Tests of the motor installed on the Cessna in Moses Lake will factor into the certification process, Ganzarski said.

Eviation’s nine-passenger Alice airplane represents another stage in the evolution of all-electric aviation: Alice makes liberal use of lightweight carbon-composite materials and should be able to take on 650-mile trips, thanks to the 375HP Magni250 motors mounted on each wingtip and at the tail.

Like Harbour Air, Eviation is aiming to start commercial service in 2022.

Ganzarski said the planes will be designed for recharging by Tesla-style 500-kilowatt superchargers, at a 1-to-1 ratio of flight time to charging time. That means, for instance, that the plane would need an hour of charging time to get back to full power after an hourlong flight. But Ganzarski that shouldn’t be too much of a burden, considering the realities of airport logistics and load times.

To facilitate charging, MagniX is looking into the development of mobile charging carts that airline maintenance teams could wheel out to their planes after landing.

All-electric seems to be all the rage in aviation nowadays, thanks in no small part to air-taxi ventures envisioned by the likes of Uber, Airbus, Boeing, Audi, Porsche, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce. But Ganzarski said he’s not interested in building electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles, or eVTOLs, that would be capable of carrying only two to four people. He thinks it’ll take 10 to 15 years to get the commercial eVTOL market off the ground, due to the tech complexities involved.

“We’re in what I define as the most boring part of aviation,” Ganzarski said. “We’re working with traditional aircraft that have wings, that take off from a runway, and land on a runway. Nothing sexy about that — except it’s 60 to 80 percent cheaper to operate per hour, and it’s completely clean.”

Betting on all-electric aviation isn’t a sure thing, as evidenced by the financial setbacks recently suffered by Bothell, Wash.-based Zunum Aero. And there’s always a chance that a bigger company like Boeing will bigfoot MagniX (and Eviation) in the market for electric airplanes. But if Ganzarski can get his step-by-step strategy off the ground, starting with the Harbour Air conversions, maybe the sky’s the limit.

Watch Roei Ganzarski’s full presentation at the Hacker News Seattle Meetup Group’s gathering, courtesy of Timothy Kitchen and Facebook Live:


CEO of MagniX, maker of electronic planes, Roei Ganzarski presenting at our meetup with Cofounders Connect – Sponsored by ATLASWorkBase.com. 🙂

Posted by Timothy Kitchen on Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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