Aviation is responsible for two percent of all human-caused CO2 emissions — which is a lot higher than it seems. But if one upcoming electric flight goes according to plan, that figure could be going down in the near future. This Thursday will mark the inaugural test flight of the world’s biggest electric airplane, which will produce zero carbon emissions.
On Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. PT in Moses Lake, Wash., electric motor company magniX and airplane testing, engineering, and certification company AeroTEC will conduct the first flight test of a Cessna Caravan 208B, magniX tells Green Matters in an email. The flight is expected to last for 20 to 30 minutes, and the airplane will be flown by a lone test pilot at a speed of around 114 mph.
The vintage Cessna Caravan has been retrofitted with an all-electric 750-horsepower (560 kW) magni500 propulsion system. The plane, which is 37 feet long and can fit nine passengers, is the world’s largest all-electric commercial aircraft, according to magniX.
The Cessna Caravan is also one of the world's most popular “middle-mile” (bigger than small planes and smaller than jets) airplanes. There are more than 2,600 in operation around the world, in about 100 countries.
Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, thinks an electric-airplane revolution could not only help reduce CO2 emissions, but also help save consumers money.
“Electric airplanes will be 40 percent to 70 percent lower cost to operate per flight hour,” Ganzarski said in a statement, as per The Guardian. “That means operators will be able to fly more planes into smaller airports, meaning a shorter and door-to-door experience, with no harmful CO2 emissions.”
And that’s exactly where Ganzarski thinks the industry is headed.
"It's a niche market. But we can start now, get working on it and push the envelope to progress the entire industry," Ganzarski added, according to CNET. "Let's get to market quickly for the main purpose of being able to start this revolution."
This is not the first existing aircraft to be retrofitted with an electric engine. Last year, tech startup Ampaire revealed that it was working on transforming a small commercial Cessna airplane (that seats up to six passengers) into an electric vehicle. The company is aiming to fly its first commercial flight on Mokulele Airlines — which runs commercial flights as short as 21 minutes — in 2021.
Electrifying the airplane industry could have an incredible effect on the planet. Not only that, but it could also be beneficial to airplane manufacturers and airlines, as in recent years, many environmentalists have taken no-fly pledges — most famously, Greta Thunberg. The teenage climate activist took a two-week journey by boat from Europe to the U.S. last year — and then another back home — all to avoid flying on a polluting aircraft. But with commercial electric flights looking more and more promising, the world may not be that far away from a Greta Thunberg-approved flight.