Electric plane motor prototype ready for testing: MagniX

Australian company MagniX has built a prototype motor for electric-powered planes ahead of a light aircraft trial in 2020 and a superconducting motor for large passenger aircraft in a decade.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

As the automotive industry heads towards electric cars, Australian company MagniX has announced that it will soon be ready to trial its electric motor for aircraft, developed in conjunction with the University of Queensland and aerospace company Ferra.

MagniX, a subsidiary of utility company Heron Energy, has designed and constructed a high power density electric motor that could be used in aircraft over the next few years -- which it said could halve the airline industry's $200 billion fuel spend in future, as well as being more environmentally friendly.

"There's a real push towards electrification, and using air travel as a way of transporting things or people from A to B as cities become larger and more congested," MagniX managing director Jason Chaffey said.

"One of the downsides with the airline industry is because planes are emitting greenhouse gases at high altitude, there's an amplifying effect on the environment. The number of grams of carbon per mile travelled is something like 100 times that of a car or bus, so from an environmental point of view that's quite significant."

MagniX, which sees electric vehicle development as a way for Australia to get back into the automotive manufacturing game, is slated to begin testing its 50kg, 250-kilowatt prototype motor within a few weeks.

The testing will involve simulating aircraft take-off and landing procedures to test the speed capacity and reliability of the motor.

The company is planning to develop an electric motor to trial inside light aircraft in 2020, ahead of a larger superconducting motor to be used in passenger aircraft in 10 years -- and said it is already in discussions with airlines and manufacturers to produce this.

NASA, Siemens, and Airbus have also been developing electric motors for aircraft: Siemens recorded a successful trial of a 50kg electric motor in a light aircraft in Germany in July last year; and Airbus flew an electric motor-powered single-seat aircraft across the English Channel in 2015.

Airbus is also planning to test its autonomous airborne taxi prototype by the end of 2017.

The electric plane trials follow the push into electric vehicles by the automotive industry, with market leader Tesla now being followed by mainstream companies including Ford and Renault-Nissan.

Ford in September said it will increase its profits by investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicle research and development in order to introduce 13 new electric vehicles by 2020, with the goal of being dominant in "electrification, autonomy, and mobility".

Ford revealed seven of these electric vehicles in January, including a hybrid F-150 pickup; a hybrid Mustang; a plug-in hybrid Transit Custom van; and a fully electric SUV with an expected range of 300 miles.

"As more and more consumers around the world become interested in electrified vehicles, Ford is committed to being a leader in providing consumers with a broad range of electrified vehicles, services, and solutions that make people's lives better," Ford CEO Mark Fields said at the start of the year.

"Our investments and expanding line-up reflect our view that global offerings of electrified vehicles will exceed gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years."

Ford added that electric vehicles would make up 40 percent of its entire product line-up by 2020, with the company also focusing on self-driving technology ahead of producing a level 4 self-driving vehicle by 2021.

Luxury car maker Jaguar also unveiled its first electric vehicle in November, using HTC Vive VR headsets to unveil the car to interested parties across the world. Jaguar's I-PACE concept car is scheduled to be road-ready in 2018, and able to reach full charge -- capable of travelling 220 miles -- in just over two hours.

BMW, VW, Bosch, Daimler, EnBW, innogy, and Siemens have also invested in electric vehicle charging specialist Hubject to assist in the unification of charging infrastructure, while Mercedes and BMW work on connected car concepts and capabilities.

With AAP

Editorial standards