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Hungarian firm is behind electric plane

While it may not be capable of extended flights, the eFusion, developed in Kecskemét, is ideal for pilots to conduct soon-to-be compulsory emergency landing practice.

The Magnus and Siemens team with their battery-powered plane.

A remarkable aircraft developed here in Hungary flies on battery power alone. While it may not be ready for long distance flight, it is ideal for training, and the electric vehicle seems to have plugged into a special niche market.

Magnus Aircraft in Kecskemét teamed up with tech giant Siemens about a year ago in order to develop the electric airplane, christened eFusion. The effort garnered the group the Aero 2016 innovation prize at a major aviation show in Friedrichshafen, and it should translate into revenue, as the group expects to begin selling the vehicle next year.

“The real hurdle for developers lies in the inadequate advancement of battery technology. Therefore, we targeted the area of education, more specifically upset recovery training where sessions normally top 30 minutes. That time span can be confidently covered by a single charging,” Domonkos Andréka, spokesperson of Magnus Aircraft told the Budapest Business Journal.

A fortunate turn of events, namely a regulatory change, is bound to give a further push to the project. As of January 1, commercial pilots will be required to complete 40 hours of such training every two years, during which they top up their skills in landing a plane in an emergency without using any electronics. Right now, eFusion is the only airplane on the market designed to fulfill the needs of this specific niche.

“Interest is abundant for our invention. By investing a bit more when buying the aircraft customers will be able to realize huge savings in the long run. During a single training flight, up to 100 liters of kerosene may be burnt, whereas our solution is based on a zero fuel scheme supported by a rechargeable battery pack replaceable within three minutes,” Andréka said. Accordingly, pre-orders have been streaming in from China, India and the Benelux countries, among others, where zero emission traffic is a hot issue.

Competition is fierce out there, no doubt; however, rival players seem to be struggling with the same obstacles. “The primary goal of the industry is to use hybrid engines for big jets that could use electric drive at ascent and descent. For small planes like ours, the immediate target is to reach one and a half hours of safe flight. Staying up there for four straight hours won’t happen anytime soon,” Andréka said.

Dual training scores again

Magnus Aircraft can further build on its already solid reputation as a manufacturer. Fusion, the piston-engine version of the newly developed electric prototype is a widely popular model. It is uniquely made of composite materials only, which substantially cuts fuel consumption. This cutting-edge, ultra-light building technology allows the electric version to score exceptionally well at efficiency.

There’s still a lot do in terms of development, however, before serial production of the e-plane, scheduled for early 2018, can be launched. Success is dependent on the cooperation with Siemens, which provides immense knowledge power and the full-scale tool kit of a top multinational corporation. Magnus Aircraft’s location in Kecskemét ensures that the technical expertise will remain available for a long time to come. Just like Mercedes, Siemens intends to capitalize on the dual training program offered by the local college, which has recently been extended to the Hungarian flagship institution, the Technical University of Budapest.

“We are recruiting heavily, employing some 30-40 people in the short-term,” Andréka noted. Signs hint that demand is likely to keep soaring. China alone wants to train some 70,000 commercial pilots annually from next year on. Right now the yearly number amounts to merely 2,000. So stay tuned for more good news about Magnus Aircraft, which has every reason to hope that it can dominate the global e-plane landscape.