MEBAA Convention News

MagniX Makes Leap from Electric Motors to Hydrogen Fuel Cells

 - December 5, 2022, 1:00 AM
MagniX displayed this electric propulsion unit at NBAA-BACE in October, about a month after the MagniX-powered Eviation Alice made its first flight. Photo: Mariano Rosales

After successfully powering the historic first flights of Eviation’s Alice electric commuter airplane and an electric-conversion Robinson R44 helicopter this year, U.S. electric motor manufacturer MagniX (Stand 1175) has doubled down on its efforts to make aviation more sustainable by entering the hydrogen fuel cell market. 

Based in Everett, Washington, MagniX has been developing electric motors—or electric propulsion units (EPUs)—since 2009. According to the company, its propulsion systems for aircraft are power source-agnostic, meaning they can work with any type of power input. That includes hydrogen fuel cells, which the company plans to offer in addition to its electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems. 

“We ultimately want to provide our customers with a full solution, not just the EPU that we are building today…but also the energy storage system that feeds that, so that we can offer battery, hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell solutions to our customers,” Simon Roads, MagniX’s head of marketing, told AIN.

MagniX is working to certify its two EPUs—the 350-kilowatt Magni350 and 650-kilowatt Magni650. The latter powered Eviation’s nine-seat, all-electric Alice commuter airplane during its first flight over the desert of Washington state in September. 

In June, Tier 1 Engineering used a Magni350 EPU to conduct the first fully electric flight of a Robinson R44 helicopter. That converted helicopter then made its first airport-to-airport flight in October, traveling 21 nm from Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport in Thermal, California, to Palm Springs International Airport. Tier 1 is collaborating with United Therapeutics on the electric R44 project, with the ultimate goal of using electric helicopters to transport human organs bound for transplant surgeries. 

An earlier version of MagniX’s electric motor, the 500-kilowatt Magni500, was also used to power the first fully electric flights of a converted De Havilland Beaver seaplane in 2019 and a modified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan in 2020. 

In 2021, NASA selected MagniX to participate in the agency’s Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration project, which aims to demonstrate electric propulsion technology on a hybrid-electric De Havilland Canada Dash 7 aircraft. That first flight is scheduled for 2025.

The next big milestone for MagniX will be the first-ever test flight of a hydrogen-powered regional airliner, a De Havilland Dash 8-300 turboprop that was converted by California-based Universal Hydrogen. Scheduled to take place before the end of this month, that flight will use MagniX’s electric motors in combination with hydrogen fuel cells made by Plug Power.