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The Future of Electric Flying Taxis, Challenges and Promise

The Future of Electric Flying Taxis: Challenges and Promises

Electric flying taxis, once the stuff of science fiction, are on the horizon, promising quieter, greener, and more convenient urban transportation. One notable player in this field is Volocopter, a German start-up aiming to launch its two-seater electric aircraft, VoloCity, in Paris. The VoloCity will mark the first use of an electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) aircraft for passenger services in Europe.

Numerous companies worldwide are developing EVTOL aircraft, envisioning emissions-free aerial transportation that can access city centers. Volocopter aims to secure European aviation regulatory clearance for VoloCity to begin passenger operations soon, with three routes connecting Paris’s core to airports and a heliport.

The main challenge faced by EVTOLs is battery technology. Current batteries remain heavy and costly, limiting the range and competitiveness of these aircraft. For instance, the VoloCity offers a range of 22 miles, suitable for short intra-city hops but not comparable to helicopters.

Volocopter’s CFO, Christian Bauer, acknowledges this limitation and anticipates more affordable, powerful batteries in the future. These advancements would enable larger aircraft with longer ranges and more competitive pricing.

“I would say we are at the last step of the first marathon to certify that vehicle. So then the next marathon begins – to get to profitability.” Said Mr Bauer

Another German company, Lilium, is developing a larger EVTOL capable of carrying up to six passengers. Unlike rotors, Lilium employs 30 electric jets that tilt for vertical take-off and forward flight, targeting congested urban areas and locations with poor rail infrastructure.

“Where you have a good train connection at low cost… we wouldn’t want to compete with it. We come into play when there is no infrastructure and infrastructure is difficult to build,” says Lilium chief executive Klaus Roewe.

Experts highlight the unique battery challenges EVTOLs face due to rapid energy consumption during take-off and landing. While optimism exists for battery cost reduction, Bjorn Fehrm, an aerospace consultant, suggests that EVTOL battery production remains specialized and costly. Furthermore, rapid charging and discharging requirements strain batteries, necessitating distinct solutions.

“They [EVTOL aircraft] actually have a very special battery set, that’s a very low production and very expensive production, and will not reach high volumes any time soon,” says Bjorn

EVTOL companies must also scale up production, a process that’s not cheap due to the complex manufacturing techniques they share with traditional aviation. Volocopter has opened an assembly line capable of producing 50 aircraft annually and aspires to manufacture thousands each year by the end of the decade.

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