An all-electric airplane built for commercial use has made history after making its inaugural test flight in Vancouver, Canada.
Harbour Air, which operates a fleet carrying half a million passengers a year, flew the electric seaplane built by MagniX for 15 minutes along the Fraser River.
“This historic flight signifies the start of the third era in aviation – the electric age,” Harbour Air and magniX said in a statement.
The benefits of electric aircraft include lower operating costs and zero emissions, however they have so far proved to be a far bigger engineering challenge than other electric vehicles like cars and trains.
The amount of power needed to launch an electric plane into the air and sustain flight requires large batteries and motors that make them difficult to fly.
MagniX achieved the feat by retrofitting a 62-year-old DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane with a 750hp electric motor.
Harbour Air said it wants to convert more planes, with the eventual goal of electrifying its entire fleet of more than 40 seaplanes. The airline warned that this could take up to two years.
Issues also need to be overcome regarding the planes’ range, as it is currently limited to around 100 miles before the battery needs to be recharged.
“The range now is not where we’d love it to be, but it’s enough to start the revolution,” Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of MagniX, told AFP.
“[But] If people are willing to drive an hour to work, why not fly 15 minutes to work?”
Advancements in electric air flight are expected to eventually solve any range limitations. A non-commercial electric plane has already crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as part of a round-the-world trip in 2017.