First all-electric airline could soar with converted old seaplanes

Harbour Air De Havilland DHC-2 Mk III Beaver flying out of Vancouver, B.C. (Credit: Harbour Air)

Harbour Air De Havilland DHC-2 Mk III Beaver flying out of Vancouver, B.C. (Credit: Harbour Air)

By land, by sea, and by air, battery power is expanding to drive all kinds of transportation.

The most challenging of these modes may be air travel. It’s harder to loft several thousand pounds of batteries into the air, to make them last potentially an hour or more. And if they run out of juice, pilots can’t just pull over and call for a tow.

Still, that’s what Harbour Air founder and CEO Greg McDougall plans for his fleet of 42 sea planes operating in Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle.

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The airline made the announcement in March that it plans to convert its whole fleet to electric power using technology from Redmond, Washington-based MagniX, which builds its own dedicated aircraft-quality electric motors. 

MagniX will remove the gas engine from one of Harbour Air’s De Havilland DHC-2 Beavers—some of which are more than 50 years old—and replace it with its own 750 horsepower mangni500 motor, rated at 2,075 pound-feet of torque to begin testing this summer, with the aim of converting the rest of Harbour Air’s fleet to electric power for commercial runs.