Vancouver’s Harbour Air has installed an electric motor into one of their de Havilland Beavers, taking them one step closer to realizing a test flight promised before the end of this year.

The airplane, a 1956 Mk 1 model, is painted in company colours with the added logo of ‘ePlane’. magniX personnel are now on site at Harbour Air’s Richmond, British Columbia base to oversee the motor’s installation. Pending still is the installation of batteries and the battery management unit.

The test flight will serve as a proof-of-concept as the weight of the batteries will result in such a reduced payload that it wouldn’t be commercially viable. However, continued battery development is expected to bring down the power-to-weight ratio to a commercially sustainable level.

The electric motor was developed by Seattle, Washington-based magniX. The company has its roots in Australia. magniX is also partnering with another Seattle-based company, AeroTec, in the development of an electric-powered Cessna Caravan.

The magniX electric motor installed on Harbour Air’s Beaver

Other than the positive environmental impact the elimination of gas-guzzling radial engines or turbines would bring, Harbour Air also sees both safety and financial benefits electric airplanes would bring.

“Electric motors are extremely reliable,” said founder and CEO of Harbour Air Greg McDougall. “They don’t have the same number of moving parts as a turbine or piston engine and they have much better durability.”

Photo credits: Harbour Air