Electric aircraft builder announces new engine option

By Bryan Corliss

April 22, 2019, © Leeham News:  Electric aircraft motor builder MagniX will celebrate Earth Day today by announcing it has been chosen as one of two powerplants for Eviation Aircraft’s proposed nine-seater Alice passenger plane.

“We have been successfully testing the MagniX system with our Alice aircraft propeller for quite some time now with great results,” Eviation Chief Executive Omer Bar-Yohay said in a statement.

The MagniX motor has more than 1,500 hours on a test stand, according to Roei Ganzarski, who is CEO of the suburban Seattle engine-builder.

The Alice is a clean-sheet electric aircraft design developed by Eviation, an Israeli company that has established a testing/production facility in Prescott, AZ. Eviation has announced plans to fly the Alice at Le Bourget this summer.

2021 certification

The first plane is being assembled in Vannes, France, according to published reports. Honeywell is supplying the flight deck and a custom fly-by-wire system. Eviation says it’s on track to have the plane certified in 2021 and in service by 2022.

“We will begin manufacturing battery-powered fleets this year for our U.S. regional carrier customers,” Bar-Yohay said.

MagniX is supplying its 375-horsepower motors for the plane and will be one of two options for buyers (the other being a 350-hp motor from Siemens). Eviation has not announced any deals for the Alice, but Bar-Yohay told Flight Global in January that the company had “sold a number of aircraft” and would announce the deals at the Paris air show, where Eviation will have its own chalet.

Return of the tri-motor

The Alice will be a tri-motor, with three pusher propellers: two mounted on the wingtips and one on the tail. Eviation says mounting propellers on wingtips cuts the wingtip vortex that creates drag.

The plane is designed to have a range of 540nm to 650nm (that’s roughly 1,000km to 1,200km, or 620sm to 750sm). With that kind of range, the plane could serve city pairs like New York-Chicago, Tokyo-Seoul and Paris-Rome. It conceivably could do San Francisco to Los Angeles and back on one charge.

The value proposition: Operating costs that will be as much as 70% lower than comparable nine-seat turboprops, along with the promise of emission-free flight.

“Our goal is to undercut the cost of commuting by making middle mile trips cheaper, faster and cleaner,” Bar-Yohay said.

Harbour Air

In March, MagniX announced that it had been chosen to retrofit its electric motors onto de Havilland Beavers operated by Canada’s Harbour Air, which bills itself as the world’s largest seaplane airline.

“We will see all-electric planes powered by our propulsion systems go into commercial service by 2022,” Ganzarski said.

34 Comments on “Electric aircraft builder announces new engine option

  1. Well, not really emission-free unless the batteries will be charged by solar or something similar; most electrical utilities use anywhere from 20% to 80% fossil fuels.

    Still, if they can do a short-haul round trip, this could work, at least for that use case. Better yet if they can do a battery swap instead of recharging.

    • Many countries, including my own, are around 90% renewable now. Hydro, Wind, Solar, Geothermal are making thermal stations only useful for peak loads. So Gas powered is al we have that is Thermal now. Battery swaps etc can make this work.

      • Many countries are at 90% renewables? Could you please point out a few?

        And charging batteries during the day will be peak hours so more likely will require fossil fuel-based generation.

          • Norway is 98% electricity production, as they have had hydro long before it was called renewable.
            Other places in US like Oregon is 2/3 renewable for the electricity produced there but they import power thats isnt renewable.

        • The province of Ontario, where I live now, has 57.0% of its electricity from nuclear, 35.6% from hydro, 4.9% from gas, 2.3% from wind, 0.2% from biofuel and 0% from solar. (It’s 10:30 at night.) These numbers vary. On a sunny day, the province can get over 2% of its electricity from solar. You can see the current state, updated hourly, at live.gridwatch.ca. The population of Ontario is about 15 million people. My previous province, Newfoundland and Labrador, generates about 94.3% from renewable sources – https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/sttstc/lctrct/rprt/2017cndrnwblpwr/prvnc/nl-lb-eng.html. The population is only about 500,000 people. Canada as a whole generates about 59% of its electricity from hydro, 15% from nuclear, about 19% from fossil fuels, and non-hydro renewables about 7%. So renewable is about 66% (hydro, biogas, solar, wind). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Canada. If batteries are charged at night, when demand is lower, when there’s excess hydro electric capacity, and when less fossil fuel is burned, the renewable contribution to electricity in the battery goes up.

    • Nikola trucks claim their hydrogen fuel cell trucks are 5000lbs lighter than Teslas battery powered trucks (their claim would be for same carry capacity, speed and torque).
      They also exceed Teslas range and take minutes to recharge. It seems the silver bullet for electric airplanes is the HFC, thus all current electric aircraft will be obsoleted very quickly.

      • For 40 years that development has been going on. Hydrogen, is of course, manufactured from electricity (at much less than 100% efficiency) HFC are not 100% either. Carrying a VERY high pressure cylinder into the air is not that smart.

        • There is another source for Hydrogen that is fluid at normal temperaturs: Methanol.

          There are even so called Direct-Methanol-Fuel-Cells but the usual way is to use normal hydrogen fuel cells and a Methanol to Hydrogen reformer.

          I can’t see a better way to produce energy in some remote areas and to store and transport it as Methanol.

  2. That looks to be a large stabilizer, almost as big as the wingspan, which is unusual. I wonder why that is?

    • Center of mass issues I’d think. Batteries must at the back end, so the need for lift at the rear

      • Yes, in their video, it does kind of look like the tail has a positive airfoil, as opposed to the upside down airfoil on most stabilizers.

        As someone brought up in the comment section of their video, not the ideal engine position for hitting the runway on rotation or too much roll, and yaw with one wingtip engine out.

        Electric engines in 2022, yes. That configuration? maybe.

        • The Piaggo Avanti is a better layout. It ‘had’ a forward lifting foil to allow smaller wing and tail surfaces, along with wing passing through centre of fuselage , all reducing drag. It already has pusher engines.
          Wouldnt it be easier to have a certified airframe with electric engines
          added rather than develop a new one ? A carbon fibre fuselage at this scale has defeated a number of experienced business jet manufacturers.

          The long thin wings by themselves reduce vortex drag ( see U2), but on a short flight duration plane like this one, surely there are other drag reduction methods that make more sense.
          The timeline given seems fanciful.-“Eviation says it’s on track to have the plane certified in 2021 and in service by 2022.”

          “Eviation is now assembling the first prototype in Vannes, northwest France, home to Alice’s undisclosed composite fuselage supplier. Internet listings show only one composite specialist in the French port town: Multiplast, which produces engine inlet fairings for several Airbus types.”
          From engine inlets to composite passenger fuselages. really ?

  3. Yes, agreed on all points.
    They talk also about redundancy as also a reason for the wingtip motors, but surely one of the attractions of an electric motor is its simplicity compared to an ice option. Also, the MagniX motors look to have an epicyclic/planetary gearbox arrangement, adding to the complexity.
    Is it was such a great idea for wingtip motors for drag reduction , then it would be seen across more platforms such as drones etc.
    it is just there to be different and a futuristic appeal to investors etc

  4. … this is fake news. The weight of the batteries needed for even short hops is the killer. This story is hasbara to keep the billionaire funding the managers 6 figure incomes.

    • I am afraid you are right. Just certifying it and passing all requirements including flight into known icing conditions will take time, experience and lots of Money. Maybe this project will fly after a couple of bankrupcies and it will look different by then. For comparison just see how much money Honda Jet and Mitsubishi needed to get certified/close to be certified and they had much better engineering skills to start from than this Israeli Project, still I hope they achive some engineering success before Money runs out..

  5. Claimed range and payload for a pure electric aircraft seem incompatible with current and foreseeable battery technology.

    • The exception here is Harbour Air. They operate a seaplane base out of downtown Vancouver. Most destinations are within 100km of the base. If they can get 300km range that give them there and back. And electrification helps not just with fuel costs. They face a pressure for running a “dirty, smelly” business on prime waterfront, batteries don’t leave oil slicks. Then there is the marketing angle, a lot of business is tourist flights and “eco” sells these days.

      This really seems like an application where it makes sense.

    • Unlikely with Li+ ion which struggles mightely to get to 300Whr/kg with 100 full DOD cycles. But there are a handful now of Li metal startups which has the potential to get past 450Whr where Musk said he’ll build VTOLs and maybe up to 650Whr with thin film and solid state, well past ice/combustion and half the volumetric of Li+ion. The thin film solid state Li metal micro battery has tens of thousands of cycles per ONRL for years. Look up LIPON. You can buy one from STMicro today. The challenge is to achieve that in a high capacity Li metal cell. It will happin in this decade earlier or later. The effect on LEOS, electric flight will be ‘electric’ ..LOL You can read my patent which published in EU, or easy to find info from others.

  6. It’s going to have to have a massive undercarriage because of the prop size. I’d have mounted the wing above the fuselage and used standard size undercarriage

  7. Swapping batteries. Who gets to supply the relevant systems and technology. Better Place, which was the first start-up to claim they were deploying battery swapping and service stations for BEVs in Israel and Europe, has folded.

    • Battery swap is a much easier problem than for cars: you only need to do it at the airports you fly to, and you have your own staff and service capabilities. And no need to worry about standardization.

      • Comparing with cars which have single location for batteries- under the floor between the wheels doesnt really apply for planes.
        They are likely to want to distribute the batteries in possibly the wing centre box and wings themselves – just like fuel would be for a plane.

        Bjorn did a series on the issues of electric flight
        https://leehamnews.com/2017/09/21/bjorns-corner-electric-aircraft-part-13/

        Well to remember the summary of the challenges of batteries

        The battery stores 40 times less energy per kilo than Jet fuel.
        While jet fuel gets consumed during flight, the battery weighs the same at take-off and landing.
        A battery needs 20 times more space than jet fuel for the same energy content.

        I think we can assume they arent going to be replacing batteries for recharging

  8. Pingback: Electric aircraft builder announces new engine option – bryancorlissblog

  9. I think it’s worth taking a look at this recent Guinness Record for flight time for a multi rotor drone. You can call it whatever you want, even ‘mindbogglingly stupid’ (like Elon Musk did). BUT they are flying! 12hrs 7 min 5 sec is a very long flight time, much longer than any batteries will allow. As people here know: Actually flying something is very different than writing up a powerpoint presentation. https://youtu.be/ka1R6EvntuI

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