The German air taxi took off

An air taxi development startup has already flown a prototype of its five-seater electric plane, promising $ 70 travel between cities by 2025.

In an April article in Nature magazine, researchers at the University of Michigan and Ford examined how viable it could be to use flying cars for general transportation purposes in the foreseeable future. It compared the consumption of vehicles that existed at most as prototypes with the energy demand of petrol and electric cars, also taking into account that aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing consume batteries with completely different dynamics. The comparison shows that new types of vehicles are not yet a viable alternative for shorter distances, and that their use would be important in such journeys within cities or agglomerations.

The study, of course, measured a technology in an experimental phase for existing solutions and did not take into account the full cost of production or operation, nor did it measure cost-effectiveness for rail or other options as opposed to conventional driving. Special experience and speed, on the other hand, are definitely a factor that can appeal to the richest in the first place. The authors of the study also point out that in certain circumstances a flying car is the least burdensome solution for the environment and, when charged with the right number of passengers, can become available to a wider audience on trips of a few hundred kilometers between cities.

In any case, it is certain that after the distribution of freight, electric scooters or bicycle public transport, the next trend in the industry is about flying vehicles: we also often report attempts such as NASA and Uber, Audi and Airbus, Boeing , developments by Chinese Ehang or other startups. Recently, the news revolves around a German company called Lilium Aviation, which has so far raised more than $ 100 million in investor funds and has had regulatory approvals for testing in the U.S. and Europe since last year.

In addition, Lilium is already flagging concrete plans that will help interpret the ideas, regardless of their validity. In an interview with Business Insider on Thursday, startup commercial director Remo Gerber spoke of a service that could travel between London and Manchester for $ 70 in Lilium’s five-seater electric aircraft by 2025. The company is thinking not only in the development but also in the operation of the vehicles, ie in addition to the production, it would also enter the air taxi business as an operator.

According to the plans, it will be possible to order vehicles from the appropriate telephone application at least 10 minutes, but up to a day in advance, and the company usually tries to map the taxi user experience as accurately as possible – only with the involvement of electric planes. they should also successfully address a number of regulatory and technological barriers. By the way, Gerber came to Lilium from Uber and seems to have brought with it a significant portion of Uber’s business model, which is currently experiencing its toughest test to date.

Uber, who recently went public, has to start delivering results: as long as investors accept from a startup that he is focused on growth instead of profit, the expectations of a listed company are different. Lilium’s commercial director said the new service doesn’t wrap around a similarly negative business model, as it breaks away from Uber’s practice from the very first minute of its operation.

It is true that air taxis will be ordered in the same way via a telephone app, however, vehicles will not go to the address but will pick up a handful of passengers at a pre-arranged location, at the same time. It actually models passenger transport on a completely different scale, but at the same time it is cheaper, more efficient and safer than, say, the use of helicopters. At the same time, although formally it is still about freight sharing, it is not about the extremely personalized user experience of traditional taxiing, while customers can travel much more comfortably.

Of course, this is reflected in the prices: Lilium expects $ 350 per trip for five-seater planes, which would mean a fare of $ 70 per passenger. Taxi drivers don’t have to pay for it, but pilots do, which is much more expensive, and manufacturing and operating fleet vehicles is quite an expensive thing – this is somewhat mitigated by the 25-year design life of aircraft, which is well above that of a taxi. Lilium would also turn to the right self-driving technology in the future to save pilots ’salaries, but that’s really something that is more obscure at the moment than the service’s launch in 2025.

In any case, an important milestone has just been left by the company: successful flights have already been made near Munich with a prototype of the vehicle called the Lilium Jet. The aircraft reportedly performed the take-off and landing perfectly, and the 300-kilometer range sounds much better on paper than the design of Uber’s similar but five-fold shorter-range aircraft. According to Lilium, the prototype in question is already so advanced that it is actually ready for official authentication of security, redundant systems or other specifications. This certainly sounds good when you consider that the German company works with an order of magnitude smaller budget than multis or even startups trying air taxis.

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