Are electric air taxis and commuter planes really getting closer? | FT Rethink

The aviation industry is keen to reduce its carbon footprint, and big money is being spent developing battery-powered aircraft. Last year, investors poured around $5bn into companies seeking to get manned electric VTOLs – vertical take-off and landing craft – airborne. The technology is improving, but as the FT’s Charlotte Middlehurst reports, there are still major hurdles to overcome.

Wednesday morning at damon’s hall airfield in essex and it’s time to go flying it mightn’t look particularly special but this pippistral vellus electro is the world’s first fully certified electric plane would you like it the pip has a cruising speed of around 100 miles per hour and can only stay airborne for about 50 minutes but in an industry seeking to

Lower its emissions there are more dynamic forms of electric aviation out there last year rolls royce unveiled the spirit of innovation with a range of around 100 nautical miles and top speed of more than 340 miles per hour it’s the fastest all-electric vehicle in existence i’ve come to derby to find out more so we have three electric motors that were giving us

Our 500 horsepower that pushed the aircraft through the sky to reach those at fantastic speeds but they only take up about this much space so pretty much everything from here backwards to almost where the pilot’s feet are is our large battery and therein lies one of the great challenges of all electric aviation we’re not going to go see a situation we’re all going

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To be sitting on sort of aircraft we’re used to going on holiday on in in an all-electric battery-powered aircraft you just can’t get the energy density in the cells to enable that to happen but what this does unlock is the ability for us to travel in small aircraft sort of 9-19 seat what we call commuter aircraft in fact israeli company aviation says that this

Summer it’s aiming to carry out test flights of a battery-powered commuter plane able to carry up to nine passengers around 400 nautical miles although it should always be remembered that this industry is not short of lofty claims back in the uk the government is helping projects like the spirit of innovation through the aerospace technology institute which has

Been given 685 million pounds to spend over the next three years what things do you think need to happen to really make meaningful advances in this sector i think it’s certainly money so this requires huge massive investment you know it’s not just the technology it’s also the infrastructure et cetera that’s required to support that i couldn’t put the exact number

On it but it is many billions of pounds billions rather than trillions yeah i think so it’s certainly billions of points and billions are rolling into one particular sector of the electric aviation industry last year investors poured around five billion dollars into companies developing manned electric vetos vertical takeoff and landing craft most of that money

Came via spax blank check investment companies and some promotional videos do look a little speculative so how realistic are companies ambitions is the technology mature enough to start flying around urban spaces the limitations not so much the technology in my view the technology certainly is mature enough one of the challenges is the certification and obviously

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The safety standards of within aviation so you know flying is one of the safest if not the safest form of transportation and we do not want to lose that reputation in bristol vertical aerospace which has rolls-royce as one of its design partners is aiming to fly its vx4 prototype later this year designed to carry a pilot and four passengers the company is working

Toward having a commercially operational craft by 2025 initially using existing transport infrastructure for its ports we’ve designed these aircraft so that they conform to helipad restrictions so in theory we could take off from helipads in cities and eventually there will be verteports as well to support these potentially electric vetoes could alleviate city’s

Congestion problems and provide more environmentally friendly urban transport vertical went public in december in a spac deal its vx4 craft comes with a price tag of around four million dollars would you acknowledge that there are still technical barriers that are are keeping this from from really taking off to use a terrible pun so we only started our commercial

Function less than a year ago and we’ve already sold over five billion dollars worth of aircraft so their conditional pre-orders um quite obviously they are dependent on us successfully certifying the aircraft because that’s the point at which the aircraft is legally allowed to be used in commercial operation the real challenge is around certification we essentially

Have to prove that the vehicle is safe it is a genuine challenge at this point none of the urban air taxi startups have received certification and it should also be noted that shares in many of the startups that listed in 2021 have fallen sharply bold visions are after all no guarantee of future viability so if you’re itching to get airborne in a fully certified

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Electric plane for the time being your best option is the pipistrelle i was in a few days earlier so we’re just going to be gliding down towards the end things are undoubtedly moving quickly in electric aviation but we should perhaps make sure that for the moment at least we keep our expectations grounded that was really smooth

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Are electric air taxis and commuter planes really getting closer? | FT Rethink By Financial Times

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