Everything You Need to Know About Lilium – the First eVTOL Jet
Various companies have been racing to build the first all-electric flying taxi — and Lilium, one of Germany’s leading flying taxi startups, is leading the pack. The company is already planning to launch its first operations in the U.S., specifically Florida, in 2024. Its first vertiport hub, and headquarters, will be located in the Lake Nona suburb, near the Orlando International airport. This will enable the vertiport to tap into the airport’s 70 million yearly passengers, though Lilium is also planning to build a network of 14 vertiports throughout the state. Through these hubs, Lilium will be introducing its new generation of eVTOL jets.
What is eVTOL?
“eVTOL” is short for “electric vertical take-off and landing.” These are vehicles that function similarly to a drone since they have large omnidirectional fans that help it move in any direction, as well as take off vertically. This addresses one of the aviation industry’s biggest problems, air pollution, since this kind of jet runs on electricity rather than the usual kerosene-based fuel.
However, eVTOL jets are a challenging technology, particularly because of their batteries. These jets would need high-density batteries to enable them to stay in the air. This will also allow them to smoothly take off and land since going up and down vertically requires a lot of power. Other factors to consider are that these batteries shouldn’t be too heavy for the vehicle, and they would ideally be able to be rapidly charged so they can still be utilized continuously during rush hours.
What makes Lilium’s eVTOL jets stand out?
The first thing that will make Lilium’s eVTOL jets stand out is that they’re the first of their kind. There are already other existing flying taxis, but some are hybrids, meaning they use electricity and fuel. Many other companies have also been working on releasing their own completely electricity-powered jets — however, Lilium also has the legacy of being the first, to work on eVTOLs. The company was founded in 2015 and tested its first full-sized prototype in 2017.
Another thing worth noting is that Lilium is designing regional air shuttles, with the average trip being 60 to 75 miles, rather than the usual 25 miles that other eVTOL companies are aiming for. This means that Lilium jets will need batteries with printed circuit boards (PCBs) that have the power integrity that allows those PCBs to generate enough power without overloading. They should also have fast-charging capabilities as the company is expecting their aircraft to have 20 to 25 flights in a day.
Because Lilium jets are regional shuttles, they’re suited more for business travels rather than day-to-day trips. This gives people a faster option to get from Fort Myers to Jacksonville, for example, which would take a whole day if you travel by land.
Lilium’s newest aircraft is also different from other air taxis as it uses 36 small ducted fans rather than the usual large open rotors. These improve efficiency for longer flights since they create less drag, and make it easier for the company to scale the jets up to 15 seats or more. The jets also have significantly lower noise signatures.
Lilium’s project in Florida will be privately financed and is expected to generate $1.7 million in economic activity within its first 10 years of operation.