WElsewhere there are over 100 air taxi projects, but probably not all will survive in the long run. In any case, the German start-up Lilium, with its unusual technical concept of electric jet, is convinced that it is one of the winners.
Five months after the first step on the fly, the model with its 36 adjustable jet engines has already dominated the challenging maneuver from vertical takeoff to forward flight. Furthermore, a speed of 100 kilometers per hour (km / h) has already been reached, announces Lilium. In the end, the electric jet should reach 300 km / h.
For the managing director of 34-year-old Lilium Daniel Wiegand, there are important milestones, because the model with eleven meters of wingspan and five passengers to mark against the competition for distance and speed. In forward flight provide wings and not rotors like many other buoyancy models. On cruise it would be called less than ten percent of the maximum power of 2000 hp, says Al Lilium.
The German start-up, based in the former Dornier airport in Weßling-Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, is based on the fact that by 2025 there will already be a commercial market for its mix of vertical starters and cruise ships without CO2– Issue gives. The European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) has established a first set of rules for licensing taxi drivers.
Volocopter follows a completely different concept
However, no model has yet received this certification. Furthermore, at least in Europe, many regulatory issues remain open for the future market for airline taxis and urban air transport, ie aviation in the vicinity of cities.
Unlike many competitors, Lilium has decided to fly as far and as fast as possible, not necessarily in the megalopolis. The goal is a radius of 300 kilometers and a maximum speed of 300 km / h. The Lilium Jet is therefore probably the fastest all-electric "take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) in the world," he says.
A completely different concept pursued, for example, by the taxi pioneer of the German aviation Volocopter, in which, among other things, Daimler is involved. The two-seater model with 18 rotors was raised for the first time in 2011 and already flew to Germany, the United States and Dubai. The model has just completed a 1.5-kilometer flight to Singapore.
Until Lilium can fly 300 kilometers a day, but a lot has to be tested. So far, there is only one model in tests and flight tests take place just outside of Munich. Lilium publishes only some technical details on its five seats.
"The weight is unfortunately confidential, as it is an important competitive criterion, especially in relation to the weight of the battery", says the Lilium Wiegand garment on request. The model now flying, still unmanned, but corresponds to a full-weight Lilium jet. The sectoral circles speak of a weight of a ton and a half. A date for the first manned flight has not yet been mentioned.
In any case, Lilium is working at high speed on his project, investing a lot and can show the first successes. For example, while the Airbus City-Airbus did not make an important round trip five months after a first mini-hop, the Lilium jet is already in dozens of test flights. In addition, Lilium completed its first production facility at the company headquarters near Munich with 3,000 square meters of space. The construction of the second plant was prepared with a much larger area.
The leader Lilium Wiegand expresses confidence. "We expect to be fully operational around the world in different cities or regions by 2025." Before this, mass production will have to start and the start expects this to be ample. "We expect the facility to be able to produce hundreds of aircraft at the helm". As head of the flight program, Lilium won the former Airbus manager Yves Yemsi, who had previously worked on the A350 and more recently a Key position in Airbus' defense and space division.
Even if the first goals have been achieved, there remains a big bet for the shareholders and investors of Lilium to see if their investment pays and who competes with which concept. Initially, only money is spent and no model is still sold. So far, Lilium has over $ 100 million.
The money came mainly from venture capitalists who invested in visionary projects such as Atomic, Tencent, LGT, Freigeist Capital with the entrepreneur Frank Thelen and Ovvio Ventures. Some investors are shareholders themselves, others only give money. According to an extract from the commercial register, the co-founder and head of Lilium Wiegand owns almost 16 percent of the share capital of Lilium GmbH.
First, give the money, says Lilium. However, before the commercial transaction, the company had to draw on the capital market again. Currently, Lilium has 350 employees and in the future it should be 500.
In any case, the startup founded in 2015 by four students thinks in large dimensions. According to its own data, "market opportunities in the trillion dollar range" should be exploited. The jet would connect the regions at a fraction of the cost that a high-speed train or a highway causes today.
Lilium's competitors include other start-ups, wealthy aviation enthusiasts, Chinese suppliers such as EHangs and industry heavyweights. However, as far as is known, all competing models have a shorter range or are designed for only one or two passengers.
However, there is a lot of movement in the market. For example, a collaboration between Boeing and Porsche caused a sensation in airline taxis. The first flight of this model, whose technical data is unknown, is already planned for next year.
When asked why Porsche does not rely on the fast Lilium model, it is an evasive answer: "We ask for your understanding that we will not comment on concrete discussions". It was good to see "more companies in this sector and bring new investments and support for them," says Lilium.
(tTransTranslate) Hegmann-Gerhard (t) Air traffic situation (t) Air traffic (t) Flight (t) Kit Ocober (t) Munich (t) Boeing (t) Automobile (t) Urban air transport (t) Lilium GmbH (t) Porsche (t) start-up (t) Nick Cohen