So how long could you fly? And more to the point, is
there a gauge that tells you how much power you have
left? Yes and no.
Before flight, the voltage reads 150, and you know the
batteries are fully charged and you have about 20 kW
available. As soon as you start to load the batteries, the
voltage goes down in proportion to the load. I take off
at 40 kW, and by 200 feet, the voltage is 146, but then I
make my first power reduction to 25 k W, and the voltage
goes back up to 148. I played with several climb profiles,
trying to find the most efficient way to gain altitude. In
this respect, it’s much like driving my Prius; I’m always
looking at the mileage indicator to drive in the most
By learning how to manage
my kilowatts, I flew several
times for more than
1. 5 hours, with reserves.
By using some soaring skills and being more in tune
with the atmosphere around you, every flight becomes
an experiment in becoming more efficient. In the e430,
when you select zero throttle, the motor uses electric
braking to stop the prop. When you move the throttle
forward, voilà, you have instant power. Once you get used
to this, you just stop the prop every time you descend and
glide, saving the battery. On the other hand, if you’re a
little high on approach, you can set the power at 400 rpm
and use the prop as a brake.
So is electric power practical? Again, yes and no. If your
mission is a flight of less than two hours, then yes, the
e430 should provide trouble-free access to the skies. It also
makes for a great touring, self-launch sailplane.
However, if your mission is a 400-mile cross-country,
then the e430 isn’t the airplane for you; the recharge
time for the batteries pretty much prevents long, single-day cross-countries. So far. It’ll be interesting to see how
long it’ll take until the 400-mile electric flight becomes
a reality, particularly with the addition of solar cells and
better batteries to extend the range. I bet Mr. Lee doesn’t
think it will be long at all.
As for dependability, this may be the first plane I’ve
tested that could fly nonstop, except for battery changes,
for three days right out of the box (literally) with no
squawks. While most electric-aircraft projects seem to be
plagued with problems making the whole system work—
that is, a particular motor doesn’t work well with another
controller or battery system—the Yuneec method is very
different, and very simple: make everything in-house to
your specs and your design. Yuneec designed and built the
batteries, motor controller, and even the balancing battery
charger. Magically, they all work together seamlessly.
For that reason, I think the e430 will really stand out in
a training role, since flight schools can keep an extra set of
batteries charged for each flight. When I had my school,
engine maintenance, oil changes, and fouled plugs just
Test pilot Dave Morss gets familiarized with the e430’s panel.
Dual controls will make the e430 a viable trainer. Switch out the
battery pack, and you’re in the air instructing again.
about killed any chance I had to make money. The e430,
with about a $3 an hour “fuel cost” for charging the
batteries plus no engine maintenance, should be a dream.
Yuneec’s plan for the e430 is to get it certified in
Germany, which recognizes electric flight, then seek LSA
certification in the United States. Of course, the FAA must
first recognize electric power for LSA, but we’re hopeful.
Industry working groups are already encouraging the rulemaking process to add this safe, green means of flight.
Based on the reaction of the Oshkosh crowd, there’s
already a big market waiting in the wings.
And why not? It looks and flies gracefully, and I’m
hard-pressed not to smile after every flight. From where I
sit, it’s clear that electric flight has arrived.