Combination of energy efficiency and minimal ground infrastructure will enable flights with comparable pricing to car taxis over the same distance, Lilium predicts
The prospect of being able to hail an air-based taxi in the city has moved a step closer following the successful test flight of an electric plane capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL).
The two-seater prototype Lilium Jet executed a range of complex maneouvres in the skies above Germany including its signature mid-air transition from hover mode to wing-borne forward flight.
Lilium said it is now developing a larger, five-seater version of the jet, designed for on-demand air taxi and ridesharing services.
“Seeing the Lilium Jet take to the sky and performing sophisticated maneouvres with apparent ease is testament to the skill and perseverance of our amazing team,” said Daniel Wiegand, co-founder and CEO, Lilium.
“We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point. The successful test flight programme shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned. We can now turn our focus to designing the five seater production aircraft.”
The jet is 100 per cent electrically powered, so creates no harmful emissions, making it a potential solution to deteriorating air quality in towns and cities, caused by road traffic.
It is also the only electric aircraft capable of both VTOL and jet-powered flight, using its wings for lift, similar to a conventional airplane. This advanced capability consumes around 90 per cent less energy than drone-style aircraft, enabling the jet to achieve a range of more than 300km with a maximum cruising speed of 300 km/h, Lilium claims.
In flight, the Jet’s power consumption per km will be comparable to an electric car. Take-off and landing only requires a small open space or landing pad on a building -- alleviating pressure on congested roads.
The combination of energy efficient flight and minimal ground infrastructure will enable passenger flights with comparable pricing to normal car taxis over the same distance.
A typical journey by Lilium Jet will be at least 5x faster than by car, with even greater efficiencies in busy cities. For example, a flight from Manhattan to New York’s JFK Airport will take around five minutes, compared to 55 minutes driving.
The ability of the Lilium Jet to travel long distances, quickly and at low cost will also open new opportunities for people to live further away from their place of work. Lilium describes this phenomenon as “increasing the radius of living by 5x”.
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In the end, the aggregation of multiple modes of transport that ensure accessibility for everyone will win