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B.C. revs up electric float plane project with $1.6M grant

Harbour Air aims to carry first passengers by end of 2022
Harbour Air serves Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox, Tofino, Salt Spring, Vancouver and Richmond as well as summer seasonal routes in B.C. (Harbour Air Seaplanes photo)

The B.C. government is pitching in $1.6 million from its electric power research fund as Harbour Air begins work on a second battery-powered float plane for passenger service.

Harbour Air president Randy Wright joined B.C. Energy Minister Bruce Ralston Friday for the grant announcement in Victoria, one of a series of B.C. research projects funded by the CleanBC electric power research fund. Wright said Harbour Air is matching the government’s investment and is beginning to convert its second de Havilland Beaver aircraft, using a new battery technology from Switzerland.

Harbour Air did its first battery-powered demonstration flight out of Richmond in December 2019, and Wright said the company’s goal is to carry its first passengers on electric aircraft next year.

“It’s all about the batteries, their power and how light they are, and it’s getting better and better as the days go on,” Wright said Oct. 29. “Billions of dollars have been put into battery technology, and we believe that we will have an actual passenger in the aircraft by late 2022.”

The company began charging passengers for carbon offsets for its flights in 2007, and in 2018 it set a goal to be the world’s first electric passenger air service. Since then, it has purchased a fully electric shuttle bus to carry passengers between Harbour Air’s downtown Vancouver and Richmond locations, and to Vancouver International Airport.

“Although the conversion of the entire fleet is a few years away, this financial support brings that goal closer,” Wright said.

RELATED: Harbour Air signs Amazon pledge to be net-zero by 2040


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