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Stralis powers up its first plane-mounted electric motor

written by Jake Nelson | January 24, 2024

Stralis has tested an electric motor mounted to a Beechcraft Bonanza. (Image: Brisbane Airport)

Sustainable aviation firm Stralis has spun up an electric motor on one of its aircraft for the first time, a major step in its ambition to facilitate hydrogen-powered passenger flights by 2026.

The test, conducted at Brisbane Airport, saw Stralis power up a motor on a Beechcraft Bonanza A36-HE platform with an eye to performing an actual hydrogen-electric test flight by the end of the year. It aims to retrofit 15-seat Beechcraft 1900D aircraft for electric passenger flights in two years.

While the Brisbane test motor used power from the electrical grid, Stralis intends to use hydrogen fuel cell technology for its retrofitted planes, which regional airline Skytrans plans to deploy initially on Brisbane–Gladstone flights. The hydrogen-powered planes will emit zero carbon, with the only byproduct being water vapour.

“This successful test marks an unparalleled achievement, not just for Stralis but for the entire Australian aviation sector,” said Bob Criner, co-founder and CEO of Stralis.

“Running an electric motor with a power to weight above 10kW/kg on an aircraft is a crucial milestone that propels us closer to witnessing this test aircraft take to the skies safely later this year.

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“We’re extremely excited about the successful test and it’s a stepping stone towards the first commercial 15-seat aircraft that we’ll deliver to our customer Skytrans in 2026.”

Ryan Both, executive general manager of aviation at Brisbane Airport, said Stralis’ plans provide an excellent opportunity for Queensland, with the southeast of the state positioned as an “aerospace hub”.

“This test represents a significant leap towards cleaner, more cost-effective, and quieter aviation. Providing emissions-free access to regional Queensland is an exciting prospect, aligning with Brisbane Airport’s commitment to sustainability,” he said.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to airlines, with Qantas pushing for more use of sustainable aviation fuel made from agricultural waste, and Rex taking a 20 per cent stake in electric aviation firm Dovetail.

In 2022, Airbus partnered with Perth-based renewable energy company Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) to collaborate on the development of hydrogen-focused low-emission solutions for the aviation sector, in a deal aimed at supporting the entry-into-service of Airbus’ ZEROe hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035 to help achieve net-zero emissions targets.

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