The world’s largest all-electric aircraft has had a successful first flight.
The Cessna Caravan, retrofitted with an electric engine, flew for just over 30 minutes above Washington state in the US, yesterday.
While the plane can carry up to nine passengers, a test pilot undertook the inaugural flight alone.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the team that worked together on the test flight were determined for it to go ahead, so they all wore masks and ensured they maintained the recommended social distance.
The engine maker, magniX, hope the aircraft could enter commercial service by the end of 2021 with a potential range of 100 miles.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, aviation was one of the fastest growing sources of the carbon emissions.
Many companies have been working on electric planes, although a major stumbling block appears to be a reduction in the weight of batteries needed to power the aircrafts.
Hydrogen fuel cells and biofuels are just some of the other power sources that have being tested.
A magniX engine also powered a seaplane which became the world’s first all-electric aircraft to fly, back in December last year.
After the successful flight, Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX said: “We’re back, the plane is already back behind us. A historic moment, flight of the world’s largest electric aircraft.”
Ganzarski is hopeful about the future in which he believes all flights of less than 1,000 miles would be completely electric in 15 years’ time.
“Electric airplanes will be 40%-70% lower cost to operate per flight hour. That means operators will be able to fly more planes into smaller airports, meaning a shorter and door-to-door experience, with no harmful CO2 emissions,” he said.
However, Ganzarski admitted it would not be straightforward.
“Battery [energy] density is not where we would like to see it. While it is good for ultra-short flights of 100 miles on a retrofit aircraft and over 500 miles on a new design aircraft like the Alice, there is plenty of untapped potential in batteries. Now that the first commercial aircraft has flown all-electric, battery companies are starting to work more diligently on aerospace-ready battery solutions,” he added.
The plane that was used, the Cessna Caravan, is one of the world’s most used medium-range planes, with more than 2,600 operating in 100 countries.
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