OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — GreenWing International is finally taking orders for the eSpyder electric airplane. The new eSpyder is an evolved version of the electric plane we flew back in 2010. This latest model uses the same basic layout, but has undergone a series of dramatic improvements and has already been certified by the German aviation authorities, a first for an electric airplane. In the United States the eSpyder will be offered as a kit-built airplane, but the company hopes to offer it as a completed light sport aircraft soon.
Before all the know-it-alls chime in with the usual range anxiety and comments about how slow the airplane is, we don’t care. Flying an electric airplane like the eSpyder is about having fun. It’s about flying very quietly without the rattle and hum of an engine overwhelming your senses. After our brief flight, we walked away with the feeling that few things can beat a small electric airplane for a nice flight across the countryside. Think of it more as a relaxing ride in a convertible, rather than the practical minivan.
Beyond some basic design and structural improvements, the battery pack and power controller have been improved after Tom Peghiny built his first prototype from a Flightstar ultralight. The new eSpyder has a 1 to 1.5 hour flight time based on how fast you want to go, though with a top speed of 68 miles per hour, you’re not going anywhere particularly fast. A nicely redesigned instrument panel provides all the necessary information about the power and battery, including a simple color-coded, green-yellow-red warning system for the remaining electrons available. The battery, motor, and controller are all made by Yuneec, the same company that provided the systems in the original, and is also building the e430, two-seat electric airplane.
GreenWing is offering the eSpyder for $39, 990 and they expect to begin delivering the kits towards the end of the year. European pilots can purchase the completed airplane, but as of now there are no provisions in the FAA’s definition of light sport aircraft for electric designs. GreenWing and other electric airplane designers are working with the feds so batteries can be integrated into the definitions that include reserve fuel requirements.