Recently, a new precedent was established concerning sustainability within the aviation industry. Greg McDougall, the owner of a seaplane charter company by the name of Harbour Air, based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, piloted an all-electric de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver (Wikipedia) for a short test flight over the Fraser River (Selkirk).
While the flight only lasted a couple of minutes, this groundbreaking experience served as a proof of concept for McDougall and his partner, magniX, the manufacturer of the engine, and a “technology firm” (Selkirk).
One major improvement upon traditional engines is the fact that, “electrical motors have fewer moving parts, meaning there’s less maintenance and less maintenance cost” (Selkirk). Furthermore, “the efficiency of a typical combustion engine for a plane like this is fairly low” (Selkirk), and due to the fact that an electrical engine does not produce any bi-products as a result of combustion, the plane will ultimately operate at a higher performance level (Selkirk).
One major drawback of electrical engines at this moment is the current power state of lithium ion batteries (Selkirk). Erika Holtz, “Harbour Air’s engineering and quality manager” (Selkirk), when interviewed within the article, she states that “the power density in aviation fuel is quite high, in the neighbourhood of 1,200 watt hours per kilogram…meanwhile in a lithium ion battery, it’s in the range of 200 watt hours per kilogram” (Holtz qtd. in Selkirk). However, due to the short flying distances encompassed by Harbour Air’s services, an all-electric engine has the range and ability to accomplish any flight formerly completed by combustion engines (Selkirk).
In my opinion, if the technology of batteries continues to advance, I can see all-electric flight dominating the aviation field in the near future. I believe that this development will not only redefine powered flight as humans understand it today, but has the potential to open new pathways to advancements within this industry.
“Is this the Start of an Aviation Revolution?” by Diane Selkirk (BBC News)(BBC Future Planet): https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200211-the-electric-plane-leading-a-revolution
“de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver” (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Canada_DHC-2_Beaver