Ah, yes, solved, is it?

The world’s first fully electric commercial aircraft has taken its inaugural test flight, taking off from the Canadian city of Vancouver and flying for 15 minutes.

“This proves that commercial aviation in all-electric form can work,” said Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of Australian engineering firm magniX.

The problem being that it doesn’t scale up. Neither in size of plane nor distance:

Battery power is also a challenge. An aircraft like the one flown on Tuesday could fly only about 160km on lithium battery power, said Ganzarski. While that’s not far, it’s sufficient for the majority of short-haul flights run by Harbour Air.

24 comments on “Ah, yes, solved, is it?

  1. There are the usual green morons saying “But the Wright brothers only managed 10 seconds”, rather disregarding the fact that they were inventing (mainly by gut feel) the science of aerodynamics. We now know enough aerodynamics (and electrochemistry) to be certain that, unlike the Wright Flyer, this performance isn’t going to improve by an order of magnitude per decade.

  2. And it’s as heavy when it lands as it was when it took off. One of the design features of kerosene power is that they can design an aircraft that’s too heavy to land with a full fuel load by optimising landing gear strength. That’s only an issue on the rare occasions when a flight has to land early, and in that case they can dump fuel in extremis.

  3. Isn’t it sufficient to end up using fossil fuels only for things that don’t really work any other way? What with aviation being some 2% of said global carbon emissions, it really isn’t a problem at all. And we will probably be close as possible to that “only using fossil fuels for stuff you can’t do any other way” within 50 years at the outside.

    Oh no, it’s about command and control, not about saving the planet, silly me.

  4. On the real world this has about the same practicality as sailing a submarine.

    Lithium ion batteries are, I believe, classified by authorities in China as dangerous goods regarding transport by air. I certainly wouldn’t want one hitting the ground at several hundred mph anywhere near me.

    And then they have to be charged. Imagine some hick town regional airfield deciding to go all “green” and then finding out it would need more power than Heathrow.

  5. And it has the (significant) advantage of being a float plane operating over water, so it can pretty much land anywhere if the power runs out – NOT something which applies to 99.9% of commercial aviation…

  6. ‘The world’s first fully electric commercial aircraft has taken its inaugural test flight’

    Claims of ‘commercial’ are premature.

    “It would do for that little inter-island hop in Orkney.”

    “But you can’t go back til tomorrow; we have to recharge the plane.”

  7. Funnily enough I can almost see harbour air out of the window, one of their common flights is to Victoria which I reckon is about 100km away by air so allowing for some reserve they can comfortably do it, but would have to refuel between trips.
    They are float planes that take a handful of passengers so not really scalable commercially, wonder how much space is lost overall as if there’s no weekend away luggage space then it’s sightseeing trips only.
    I’m going to be driving to Victoria next week and it’s about 3-4 hrs each way including having to be at the ferry terminal at least 30mins early

  8. ““This proves that commercial aviation in all-electric form can work,” said Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of Australian engineering firm magniX.”

    What? No it doesn’t.

    What it proves is that you can get an airplane off the ground solely on electric power. That’s it.

    It proves you can do this commercially the same way a fusion test shows you can do fusion power commercially.

  9. BniC, I made that trip from Vancouver some years ago. Very memorable. Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, then drove down the east side of Vancouver Island to Victoria.

    The air in Nanaimo was amazing. Perhaps simply because it is CLEAN.

  10. @Tractor Gent December 11, 2019 at 10:50 am

    +1 weight reduction per mile applies to vehicles too

    I read an article about 747 a while ago and why no flights from some major airports.

    One example they gave was Edinburgh (EDI) – 747 could land OK, but it couldn’t take off again.

    I guess rockets like USAF sometimes use on Cargo planes isn’t an option on passenger planes.

    @TW & BiG

    RR is developing electric propulsion system for Island Hopper planes. Maybe they’ve concluded “if peeps want to buy them, may as well make them”

    imo EVs are stupid

  11. “But you can’t go back til tomorrow; we have to recharge the plane.”

    Come. now. Westray to Papa Westray, 1.5 minutes.

  12. @gamecock
    Going that route over, on paper takes longer, but it beats the drive to the Twassen terminal through rush hour traffic in the morning which can be highly variable and the drive down the east coast is nice if you aren’t in a rush.
    Only drawback is I’ve noticed is rarely seen orca’s on the horseshoe bay route and seem more common on the Twassen route

  13. Lithium ion batteries are, I believe, classified by authorities in China as dangerous goods regarding transport by air.

    Li batteries are considered dangerous goods for air transport by everyone. My nephew and his cycle group were flying to France to retrace some of the route of Le Tour. He has a very fancy racing cycle with electrically operated gears and easyJet (correctly) refused to take it in the hold (the batteries can’t be taken out without disassembling the bike).

    Boeing Dreamliners use large Li batteries (for main and auxiliary power) to reduce weight, and early models had a few problems with thermal runaways (now resolved). They aren’t identical to the Li batteries your laptop or phone may use (more safeguards built in).

  14. There’s a bloke on YouTube who built remote-controlled planes powered by, inter alia, a cordless drill and a leafblower. Difference is, he was doing it for fun.

  15. @Chris Miller, you are 99% right.

    The 1% is that “…(the W bros) were inventing (mainly by gut feel) the science of aerodynamics.”

    Not gut feel- they knew what they were doing, and were doing it properly via experimentation, consideration and generally that now unfashionable thing The Scientific Method. Plus a massive dollop of intelligent engineering, of course. Despite claims from others, they DESERVED to be first because they wuz doing it, ummm, right.

    In other news, this Harbour Air stunt demonstrates zip about commercial viability, and will probably end up showing the opposite of what the green media have been told – so they will conveniently forget the story idc.

  16. Scaling is the BIG issue. Elsewhere on the net is a detailed engineering consideration of why this won’t work for an airliner, and what advances in battery storage / weight you would need to make it work. Such advances will not come in our lifetimes – if ever.

    A simpler illustration is the fact that I can make a 1 foot span plane fly with the power of a rubber band, and a 3 foot span plane fly with an electric motor and LiPo batteries, but 10-20 foot model planes usually require lawnmower engines….

  17. The 1% is that “…(the W bros) were inventing (mainly by gut feel) the science of aerodynamics.”

    Er…no. That was Sir George Cayley.

    The Wright brothers were developing aeronautical ENGINEERING. Making something which had been well specified theoretically actually work in practice. And, in fact, their purely aerodynamic design was poor, and rapidly dropped in favour of more practical designs from people like Santos-Dumont. Where they excelled was in the production of lightweight but powerful engines – that was the secret of their success. The first, I believe, to use aluminium…

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