March 7, 2021

Electric aircraft motor company MagniX lands deal to power UK startup’s planned 300-plane fleet

UK startup Faradair is proposing to bring an 18-passenger propeller-driven triplane to market as soon as 2026, powered by electric motors from Seattle-area startup magniX. (Faradair Rendering)

A Seattle-area company has been picked to provide the electric motors for a proposed fleet of 300 aircraft to be built in the United Kingdom by 2030.

The deal has the potential to be the largest yet announced for MagniX, which is emerging as a player in the electric aviation niche. The company, based in Redmond, recently announced deals with Sydney Seaplanes in Australia to retrofit a nine-passenger Cessna 208 Caravans with battery-powered electric motors, and has joined an effort to retrofit a 40-passenger de Havilland Dash 8 Q-300 with two electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

In addition, the company continues work to certify its first battery-powered aircraft – which first flew 12 months ago – so that it can begin carrying paying passengers. And it has continued development work with sister company Eviation on its proposed battery-powered Alice nine-seat commuter plane.

All in all, “the last six months have just been crazy good, despite everything that’s going on with Covid,” said MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski. “We’re really excited with the fact that what’s going on in the marketplace is solidifying our product and our strategy.”

The Alice, which is expected to have its first flight next year, would be the world’s first battery-powered aircraft designed to be all-electric from the start. All other battery-powered planes to fly to date have been conversions of conventional carbon-burning aircraft.

Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX and chairman of Eviation, discusses electric aviation during a 2019 meetup in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

But while that would be a huge milestone for MagniX, the most-recent deal, announced Dec. 17 in the United Kingdom, is potentially the biggest.

MagniX is a risk-sharing partner with Faradair, a UK startup that aims to bring an 18-passenger propeller-driven triplane to market as soon as 2026. Existing battery technology isn’t strong enough to power an aircraft that size, Ganzarski said. So as an interim step, Faradair proposes a biofuel-powered generator to provide electricity to a pair of 750 horsepower MagniX motors.

By 2030, the company says it plans to have built 300 of its planes, configured for aerial firefighting, cargo / passenger conversions, full-time freighters and for use by government agencies for missions like border and fisheries patrol or drug interdiction.

Faradair has not announced any customer commitments for the planes. It says it plans to maintain ownership and lease them to operators.

Whether they’re powered by batteries, biofuel generators or hydrogen, MagniX’s electric motors will be assembled at a new plant in western Washington. Ganzarski said he’s not ready to announce where the new plant will be, but a published report in Australia suggests it will be in Everett.

Electronic aircraft are a small but interesting niche in the broader aerospace industry, said Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia, who was part of a virtual panel on the state of the aerospace industry in Washington earlier in December.

“I am intrigued by the Pacific Northwest angle,” he said. “It does seem with that combination of entrepreneurialism and engineering and background in aviation… that there will be opportunities for the Pacific Northwest to lead the way.”

The Washington Department of Transportation this month designated six airfields as “beta test” sites for electric aircraft. The designation means that local airport administrators will work with DOT’s Aviation Department to plan for the type of infrastructure electric-powered aircraft will need.

The airports are King County International (also known as Boeing Field), Chehalis-Centralia, Felts Field in Spokane, Grant County International in Moses Lake, Olympia Regional and Yakima Air Terminal.