The aviation industry will never be the same after the COVID-19 shutdown. Multiple airlines have gone into administration, with one airline association predicting a $314bn loss to airlines globally due to the pandemic.
At the same time, the scale of the climate crisis is forcing a drastic rethink of international travel. One study found carbon emissions from commercial flights rose by just under a third from 2013 to 2018, at a time when the world is struggling to reign in emissions and prevent a deadly 1.5-degree increase in global temperatures.
The “eCaravan,” a partnership with Seattle-based aerospace firm AeroTEC, has a 750-horsepower propulsion system and can seat nine people. Geekwire reports that during the 30-minute flight, the “hum” of the eCaravan engine was drowned out by the “relative roar of the chase plane’s engine.”
The Cessna Caravan plane modified for electric flight is one of the most widely used medium planes in the world: thousands of models operate in 100 countries.
“Choosing the Cessna Grand Caravan was very intentional,” MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski told Geekwire. “It was, ‘Let’s find the aircraft that everyone in the world knows, uses and lives, and let’s give it a new lease on life.’ Let’s make it electric. Let’s make it the Tesla of the air, if you will.”
The company aims to get its systems certified by the end of 2021, anticipating flights of up to 100 miles for four to five passengers.
Geekwire adds that one of the biggest selling points is fuel-free flying, with drastic cost savings. As 80 percent of the electricity used was renewable, it would cost just over two cents per kilowatt hour. “So this 30-minute flight would have cost us around $6 in electricity, compared to $300 to $400 in fuel,” Ganzarksi told Geekwire.
In a statement to CNN, Ganzarski added that the flight proved that “low-cost, environmentally friendly, commercial electric air travel” could be possible in the “very near future.”
Speaking to the Guardian, the CEO stressed that this could mean flights under 1,000 miles being completely electric by 2035.