Canadian regional airline Harbour Air and electric propulsion specialist MagniX are stepping up their plans to convert the DHC-2 Beaver aircraft to electric motors through a new partnership with H55, which will provide battery packs. Switzerland-based H55 is a spin-off venture from the Solar Impulse project, which flew a solar-powered electric aircraft around the world in 2015 and 2016.
The three companies today announced that they will work with Transport Canada to certify a combination of the MagniX electric propulsion unit with H55’s batteries, which have a specific energy of 200 Wh/kg. The initial goal is to convert Harbour Air’s existing fleet of Beaver seaplanes through a supplemental type certificate (STC) and then market a conversion kit for other operators to retrofit their aircraft.
Harbour Air and MagniX have been conducting test flights with the so-called eBeaver since December 2019, and are aiming to have the STC approved by 2022. H55 will provide a complete energy storage system and redundant battery monitoring for the eBeaver, while also expanding the aircraft’s balance-to-weight ratio and flight endurance.
The goal is to support a 30-minute flight time on a single full charge and allow a 30-minute reserve. The recyclable H55 batteries will last 600 flight hours before being replaced when at a 90 percent "state of health."
During flight testing, the partners have used the eBeaver to measure and collect data on cruise performance and takeoff thrust efficiency, as well as to evaluate electromagnetic interference, battery management software logic, and levels. Now with H55’s involvement, they will further optimize the design of the electric propulsion system, the energy storage system, and other aircraft systems.
H55 was established in 2017 by key members of the Solar Impulse project’s leadership team, including Andre Borschberg, Sebastien Demont, and Gregory Blatt. Its battery pack technology was developed as part of Solar Impulse’s core goal of creating an electric aircraft with unlimited endurance (using solar power). The company has also been involved in the development of the Twister Aero1 acrobatic aircraft and the BRM Aero Bristell Energic two-seat trainer.
Vancouver-based Harbour Air has a fleet of 40 aircraft and operates up to 300 daily scheduled flights on Canada’s west coast, as well as private flights and scenic tours. Its network includes connections to Victoria, Nanaimo, Tofino, Whistler, Richmond, Sechelt, Salt Spring Island, Pitt Meadows, Maple Bay and Comox, as well as to Seattle, Washington.