One of the most common questions I received in the nearly seven years I was Editor in Chief here at Kitplanes was “why don’t you ever cover electric aircraft?” The answer we always gave was something like “well, when there is an aircraft that can be built by the average amateur builder that can carry more than one small person and accomplish a mission that is more than just once around the patch, we’ll write about it!”
Well folks, the time is here. Let’s have a look at the Electric Xenos—an electric powered motor glider than can carry two full sized adults and stay aloft for over an hour—more if you can find great lift! There have been quite a few electric powered ultralights that have flown, and credit goes to their designers and builders. But in the E-AB category, electric planes have occasionally been announced, flown a couple of times, and then gone silent. Problems with excess weight, insufficient batteries, or limited endurance have gotten them all.
We recently had a chance to fly the Electric Xenos with Gabe Devault, its designer and builder, at his home base in Hollister, California. DeVault is no newcomer to electric power—he was a founding member of the design team that produced the first Zero Motorcycles, and in fact, is powering the Xenos with the motor and batteries from a donor bike.
Not sure exactly what to expect as we settled into the cockpit with DeVault we were quickly blown away as he added power and left the runway just about as quickly as we would have if the airplane had been equipped with the standard AeroVee or Jabiru engine. It flew… like a motor glider! Climb was positive, speeds were more than adequate for the fun soaring mission – we simply had a ball and were impressed by the overall maturity of concept that has been a long time coming.
Obviously, we have a complete report in the works, so consider this but a teaser. We flew a fairly inefficient sport soaring profile, using motor assist whenever we wanted, for 25 minutes and used only 30% of the battery power stored at takeoff. We flew from the best L/D sped of about 60 mph up to the 90’s – and it flew just like the regular Xenos in which we have some time. Yes—he electric Xenos is real!