Harbour Air

British Columbia cuts taxes for electric aircraft

An electric-powered Harbour Air Beaver completes its maiden voyage at Vancouver International Airport (photo: Brett Ballah).

Electric aircraft will be exempt from provincial sales taxes thanks to a new initiative put forward Tuesday by the government of British Columbia.

“Effective February 19, 2020, electric aircraft are exempt from provincial sales tax,” the government announced in its 2020 budget documents. “These provisions support the province’s CleanBC strategy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by shifting away from fossil fuels and towards clean and renewable energy.”

The move is expected to be a shot in the arm for Vancouver-based Harbour Air, which tested the world’s first flight of an electrically-powered commercial aircraft in December.

“We are standing on the edge of a new era in aviation and sustainable air travel,” said Harbour Air President Randy Wright, reacting to the news.

“Canada has had a longstanding history in aviation leadership, and we are proud to continue that forward thinking legacy, but we can’t do it alone,” he said. “This commitment by our governments to support local businesses and innovation, exemplifies the leadership and dedication required to make meaningful impact.”

Harbour Air partnered with Washington-based magniX to convert a Beaver float plane into an electric aircraft. The bulk of the conversion work was done at the airline’s hangars at Vancouver International Airport.

The partners are continuing to test the first DHC-2 and are hoping to get regulatory approval within the next two years. Once that happens, the airline plans to convert the rest of its fleet to electric power.

The airline is the largest float-plane operation in North America, with frequent services to Vancouver Island, and as far afield at Whistler and Seattle. MagniX Chief Executive Officer Roei Ganzarski told an aviation conference last year he fell in love with float planes on a flight from Seattle’s waterfront to the heart of downtown Vancouver.

MagniX has not publicly released the cost of its motors. The province said the sales tax exemption would not have a significant impact on taxpayers.

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