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Unwilling Beta tester
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)

An all-electric powered seaplane has taken flight in Vancouver, Canada, in what the operators describe as a "world first" for the aviation industry.

The short test flight by Harbour Air and magniX involved a six-passenger aircraft fitted with an electric motor.
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Awesome stuff, and in my back yard too. What the article doesn't mention is that the test flight was done by the company's CEO - now there's someone who believes in leadership.

Before people start, a few obvious points:
  • Yes, the range is limited, but Harbour Air typically only flies routes <70nmi, which are within the range of this plane (with adequate margin)
  • Yes, this would not work for longer routes
  • Yes, it's only carbon neutral if you generate the power in a renewable manner, which in BC we do (~95 renewable)
  • Yes, they still have to prove reliability
 

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Vermin Supreme 2020
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something something, rabble rabble, range, lame, etc etc.

in reality - this is huge for regional and puddle jumping airports.
 

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That's pretty awesome! I bet it's an unusual feeling to fly a plane that size without the engine exhaust noise. I loved the switched to electric in rc planes, they started sounding awesome with nothing but prop noise.
 

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Can someone enlighten me on why this is a big deal and why it's not rather common already?

I get that batteries are heavy, but I wouldn't think they would be that much heavier than a full fuel cell to make it a big deal. Obviously with larger jets those few extra pounds will add up quick, but with smaller aircraft like this one, it seems like it would be easy to someone like myself with zero knowledge or understanding.
 

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Unwilling Beta tester
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Can someone enlighten me on why this is a big deal and why it's not rather common already?

I get that batteries are heavy, but I wouldn't think they would be that much heavier than a full fuel cell to make it a big deal. Obviously with larger jets those few extra pounds will add up quick, but with smaller aircraft like this one, it seems like it would be easy to someone like myself with zero knowledge or understanding.
Pretty much the bold bit. The energy density of batteries is still a couple of orders of magnitude short of jet fuel, nowhere near enough to power a large plane for long. From Science Direct:



One other drawback is that planes get lighter as they burn fuel, extending their range, whereas batteries maintain the same weight throughout the flight.
 

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Pretty much the bold bit. The energy density of batteries is still a couple of orders of magnitude short of jet fuel, nowhere near enough to power a large plane for long. From Science Direct:



One other drawback is that planes get lighter as they burn fuel, extending their range, whereas batteries maintain the same weight throughout the flight.
Oh Lordie, didn't know it was that big of a disparity still. People talk like batteries have really closed the gap lately. Stupid me for not looking into the data itself and just rolling with what I hear.

Thanks for the heads up

Edit: Hard to imagine that the graph you linked is really just a tiny portion of the full graph of energy production. Rocket fuel converts what, like,3% of it's mass to energy?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Oh Lordie, didn't know it was that big of a disparity still. People talk like batteries have really closed the gap lately. Stupid me for not looking into the data itself and just rolling with what I hear.

Thanks for the heads up
They've got a lot better recently, but still nowhere near fossil fuels. The difference is partially mitigated by the efficiency of electric motors vs their fossil fuel alternatives, but that still brings it to a factor of 40-50 times less energy dense (for cars at least).

With cars the other advantage is that you don't use energy whilst stationary, sadly planes can't do this. Well, more than once.
 

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WTB solid state batteries already.
 

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Awesome stuff, and in my back yard too. What the article doesn't mention is that the test flight was done by the company's CEO - now there's someone who believes in leadership.

Before people start, a few obvious points:
  • Yes, the range is limited, but Harbour Air typically only flies routes <70nm, which are within the range of this plane (with adequate margin)
  • Yes, this would not work for longer routes
  • Yes, it's only carbon neutral if you generate the power in a renewable manner, which in BC we do (~95 renewable)
  • Yes, they still have to prove reliability
This is new? Lithium batteries have been around a while and even without them some short hop was possible.
70 nano meters sure is an easy range to achieve.
It does work for longer routes but not so much with heavy passengers and a heavy aircraft.
Reliability... probably miles better than controlled explosion engines.

Yes batteries are still insanely behind burnable fuels in energy density and weight.
 

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This is new? Lithium batteries have been around a while and even without them some short hop was possible.
70 nano meters sure is an easy range to achieve.
It does work for longer routes but not so much with heavy passengers and a heavy aircraft.
Reliability... probably miles better than controlled explosion engines.

Yes batteries are still insanely behind burnable fuels in energy density and weight.
lol, Nautical Miles not Nano Meters :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
70 nano meters sure is an easy range to achieve.
nm in this context would be Nautical Miles, the standard unit of distance for aviation, although to be fair I got the case wrong (should be NM, or nmi)
 

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Pretty much the bold bit. The energy density of batteries is still a couple of orders of magnitude short of jet fuel, nowhere near enough to power a large plane for long. From Science Direct:



One other drawback is that planes get lighter as they burn fuel, extending their range, whereas batteries maintain the same weight throughout the flight.
Isn't the energy output of batteries also affected by temperature?
 

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"we have microscopic footage of the plane traveling from one side of a 580 to the other!"

Isn't the energy output of batteries also affected by temperature?
sure seems that way every winter :D
 
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That's pretty awesome! I bet it's an unusual feeling to fly a plane that size without the engine exhaust noise. I loved the switched to electric in rc planes, they started sounding awesome with nothing but prop noise.

Most of what you hear are the propellers breaking the speed of sound, not the engine itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Onboard (well, under wing) video of the test flight:


And an external video on the CBC article about it
 

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Awesome stuff, and in my back yard too. What the article doesn't mention is that the test flight was done by the company's CEO - now there's someone who believes in leadership.

Before people start, a few obvious points:
  • Yes, the range is limited, but Harbour Air typically only flies routes <70nmi, which are within the range of this plane (with adequate margin)
  • Yes, this would not work for longer routes
  • Yes, it's only carbon neutral if you generate the power in a renewable manner, which in BC we do (~95 renewable)
  • Yes, they still have to prove reliability

...proud to say that this took place in my front yard, so to speak (even if the reported flight was in Richmond, not actually Vancouver proper). While there have been other electric plane demos before (US, Europe) and even recently an electric passenger-carrying drone (Volocopter), this apparently is the first application for sea planes.

I have taken Harbour Air plenty of times and pass by their downtown Vancouver terminal every day; these are short-haul flights mostly over water in sturdy STOL type planes (that ol' venerable DH Beaver), which aides with safety and emergency situations. That in turn makes it an ideal vehicle to get licensed for electric propulsion and push technologies further via daily use for other aviation applications down the line. As others have observed, energy density is still a big issue concerning even relatively recent battery designs when it gets to longer-haul, higher altitude - but we need Harbour Air type applications to move this technology forward on a commercial scale.

Finally, folks in downtown Vancouver might appreciate a reduction in noise, propeller sound not withstanding :) Ditto for reduced emissions in an area that already deals with large freight, container and cruise ships and the supporting infrastructure.

 

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yep, i look forward to hopping one from miami to key west.
 

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this is pretty cool. thanks for sharing.
 

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Isn't the energy output of batteries also affected by temperature?
Yes and something all this marketing will never tell you. Its the reason teslas can only win short drag races and cant beat a diesel van on a long track like the 'ring.
 

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Yes and something all this marketing will never tell you. Its the reason teslas can only win short drag races and cant beat a diesel van on a long track like the 'ring.
This was true before the Model 3 because the battery system didn't have the active cooling capacity to dissipate the heat. It simply wasn't on the list of features they optimized for and surprisingly it wasn't even the batteries performance directly, but the fire protection system which limited the performance. However with the massive advancements they kept making, the 3's battery has been substantially redesigned to handle this kind of scenario. The Model S Plaid, and the Porsche Taycon are also just as track capable.

Nascar races usually get 100 miles or so per pitstop, which makes the range within the car's capabilities. There is of course still the um.. lets say significant difference in 'fueling' time. If you're talking about the 'ring as the Nurburgring, then the Taycon has records and the Plaid S already is unofficially playing with lap records there.
 
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