Eviation says it has selected Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX to become a propulsion system provider for its Alice all-electric airplane, a nine-seater that’s due to go into commercial service as early as 2022.
An Alice aircraft equipped with three 375-horsepower Magni250 motors will make its debut at the Paris Air Show in June, MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski said.
“They’re going to have a fully functioning aircraft, their first of type, at the Paris Air Show,” Ganzarski told GeekWire. “Our propulsion system is going to be on it.”
After the show, the plane is due to be shipped to Arizona and begin flight testing by the end of the year. Eviation, which is headquartered in Israel, wants to have the plane certified by the Federal Aviation Administration by the end of 2021 and aims to start delivering the planes to customers in 2022.
Customers will be able to choose between MagniX’s propulsion system and a different system offered by Siemens. The Siemens propulsion deal was announced in February.
Word of MagniX’s deal with Eviation comes less than a month after the electric propulsion company announced that it would help Vancouver, B.C.-based Harbour Air convert its fleet of seaplanes to all-electric propulsion, following roughly the same development timeline.
Each Harbour Air conversion will make use of a single 750-horsepower Magni500 electric motor, which should give the seaplanes a range of roughly 100 miles. In contrast, Eviation’s three-motor Alice airplane is designed to fly up to nine passengers as far as 650 miles on a full charge.
“That means you can easily do Seattle-San Francisco or other significant-range flights,” Ganzarski said. “It’s a real long-range commuter aircraft.”
The reason for the extended mileage goes beyond the motors. Eviation’s design takes advantage of lightweight composite materials for construction, which means it can carry three tons’ worth of batteries. “You make it basically a flying battery,” Ganzarski explained.
Ganzarski said he feels as if MagniX, Eviation and Harbour Air are on the same wavelength when it comes to the promise of all-electric, zero-emissions aviation. “All three of us share the same common vision of connecting communities,” he said.
MagniX is privately held by Singapore-based Clermont Group, and moved its headquarters from Australia to Redmond several months ago to take advantage of the Seattle area’s pool of aerospace talent. MagniX’s motors have been put through 1,500 hours of operation in test facilities, and Ganzarski said the motors starting to go into commercial production in Australia. Right now, there are about 40 MagniX employees in Australia, and 20 at the Redmond headquarters, he said.
That number seems certain to grow. “We have about 12 months to decide where our mass production is going to be, with hundreds of motors,” he said. “Right now we’re talking in tens of motors for a year. I think this year we’re going to develop probably around 20 motors.”
Eviation already has a good feel for the Magni250’s performance.
“We have been successfully testing the MagniX system with our Alice aircraft propeller for quite some time now, with great results,” the company’s CEO, Omer Bar-Yohay, said in a news release. “We will begin manufacturing battery-powered fleets this year for our U.S. regional carrier customers, with a value proposition that reduces their operating costs by up to 70 percent.”
Neither company would discuss the financial details of the deal, but Ganzarski said it was “a win-win for both companies.”
“Once you can have an aircraft like the Alice that operates at such a low cost compared to traditional aircraft, and is clean, we both believe that will create a new type of market that doesn’t exist today,” he said. “It won’t be filled by the regional carriers, but rather by new types of companies that will set up services for movement of either people or goods — for example, delivery companies — and they’ll be able to do that by air, covering more distance at a much lower cost than trucks can.”
Eviation probably won’t have that market all to itself, however: Kirkland, Wash.-based Zunum Aero is working on a hybrid-electric airplane in partnership with Safran Helicopter Engines, with financial backing from Boeing’s HorizonX venture fund and JetBlue Technology Ventures. Meanwhile, Airbus is developing a hybrid-electric plane called the E-Fan X in partnership with Siemens and Rolls-Royce.
Like Eviation, those teams plan to get their planes to market in the early 2020s.
Update for 9:18 a.m. PT April 22: Like MagniX, Eviation has financial ties to the Clermont Group: In February, Forbes reported that the Clermont Group gave Eviation $76 million in exchange for notes convertible to a 70% stake in the company. Eviation and MagniX started forging their partnership well before the Clermont-Eviation deal was struck, but the financial ties serve as one more reason why it makes sense that MagniX would be given a place alongside Siemens as a supplier of electric propulsion systems.