Addressing a news conference at Aeroshell Square at Oshkosh on Tuesday morning, Clive Coote, the chairman and president of Yuneec International, noted a hopeful precedent for the potential growth of electric flight — when electric motors were introduced in the remote-control market, that market quadrupled, he said, attracting many new enthusiasts, and today, 80 percent of the RC market is electric-powered. Coote said the Yuneec LSA prototype that his company brought to AirVenture is the result of an “extremely aggressive production schedule,” driven by the goal to fly it this week. “We had 20 engineers working around the clock for three months,” he said, to meet that deadline. They built it in China, test flew it for 20 minutes, then packed it up and sent it to Camarillo, Calif., where it flew for 22 hours and got an Experimental certificate from the FAA. So far it has not worked out for the aircraft to fly here at Oshkosh, but Coote said “we will fly as much as we are allowed to this week,” and he expects it to definitely fly on Saturday. The projected price for the production LSA version of the aircraft is $89,000, he said.
The effort is entirely funded by Yuneec CEO Tian Yu, who is also building a 260,000 square foot production facility in Shanghai, which is due to open in October. Production of the LSA is planned to start in late 2010, with first deliveries early in 2011, Coote said. He also said the company is working on solar-cell installations that could go on the wings that would recharge the batteries. Battery life is about 1,500 hours. Right now replacements cost about $7,000 per battery pack, and the aircraft carries three to five packs. Coote said battery technology is evolving fast and he hopes that by the time most users are ready to replace their batteries, better batteries at lower prices will be on the market. The Yuneec can fly up to two hours on three battery packs, or up to two and a half hours with five. Recharging takes about three hours.