One of the most secretive and exciting start-ups, Lilium, hopes to bring a fleet of all-electric aircrafts to New York city within five years, thereby producing one of the world’s first flying taxis.
In a special feature penned by The New York Times, where a journalist visited a Lilium hangar outside of Munich to be shown the prototype, Lilium’s CEO Daniel Wiegand holds back from saying how much the aircraft has cost, going only as far as saying “several million”.
In the special feature, Mr Wiegand said “this is the perfect means of transportation, something that can take off and land everywhere.”
The New York Times reports that Mr Wiegand hopes to transport people from Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport for $70 in just ten minutes. The journey currently takes around an hour by car, or by train.
In the tech world, expectations are starting to build that aerial taxis may become a reality in the coming years.
The feature says that at least 20 companies are currently in the market to provide electric aircrafts. Morgan Stanley estimates the market will be worth some $850mn by 2040. Google’s co-founder and billionaire Larry Page is financially backing a company called Kitty Hawk and is being run by the engineers on Google’s autonomous car. In addition, Boeing and Airbus reportedly have similar projects underway and automakers Daimler, Toyota and Porsche are investing in the sector.
Uber is also planning an air taxi service, with plans to open by 2023 in Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne, Australia.
Despite the ambitions, developers will have to overcome a myriad of obstacles to get their prototypes approved. The cost is one major factor, both in terms of bringing down the cost of production and the cost of a single ride so that air taxis become accessible to a wider range of people.
Once companies achieve the construction of a durable jet at a reasonable cost, it will have to be approved by regulators in whichever country in which the air taxis will operate.
The New York Times reports that Lilum’s prototype is similar to a glider, “with a carbon fiber body and 36-foot wingspan”. It is being developed to be battery powered and is expected to have a range of 186 miles (299km) with a top speed of almost 190 miles per hour (300km per hour). It is being developed to carry for passengers at a time.
Lilium reportedly raised more than $100mn from investors.