A Yuneec Flying
I first saw the Yuneec e430 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in July 2010, when Yuneec exhibited an
electric paramotor, the E-PAC, along with a rag-and-tube microlight, the E-Spyder, and the e430,
a two-seat composite light-sport aircraft (LSA). All of these aircraft have battery-powered electric
motors. Thanks to the miniaturization of components and, even more importantly, the growth
in the efficiency of lithium-polymer batteries, it looks as if we can finally start to combine the
required power output with battery capacity (endurance).
BY RICHARD SAINT-GEORGE
I WAS KEEN TO get my hands on the actual aircraft so I remained in contact with Olivier Ronveaux, the Yuneec dealer for Belgium and France.
Before long, he offered me the opportunity to fly the airplane, which is
how I found myself at Saint-Ghislain (EBSG) in Belgium, looking at a
Made in Korea by Kokam, the battery pack consists of 36 cells, which
generate a total of 133. 2 volts. The lithium-polymer (LiPo) battery pack
has its roots in the world of model aircraft. LiPo batteries are relatively
light and easy to manufacture in different shapes, although they’re both
less powerful and more expensive than lithium-ions. To illustrate how
the technology is moving forward, Olivier explained that just a year ago
the Kokam battery pack in the first e430 would provide power for just
about an hour. Six months after those first flights the batteries were lasting for 90 minutes—and the current pack will last up to three hours.
The Yuneec e430 has its roots in a scale
model. Tian Yu, its designer, owns a factory
in China with 1,200 employees who turn out
a radio-controlled model airplane or helicopter every three seconds. It seemed
natural to Yu to consider building a full-scale airplane, and natural that it should be
powered by an electric motor.
For a two-seat lightweight aeroplane, the
e430 is huge; its 45-foot, 3-inch wingspan
compensating for the relatively low-pow-ered (40-k W/54-hp) motor. Personally, I
wonder if it is too big—the V-tailed Robin