German start-up receives US$90 million to build flying taxi

19th September 2017 Nick Michell

Lilium, the German aviation company developing the world’s first all-electric jet capable of vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), has announced an investment of US$90 million from a second round of fund raising.

The investment will be used for the development of the five-seat Lilium Jet that will fly commercially. In April the full size prototype successfully performed its most complicated manoeuvre–transitioning between hover mode and horizontal flight.

“This is the next stage in our evolution from an idea to the production of a commercially successful aircraft that will revolutionise the way we travel in and around the world’s cities,” said Daniel Wiegand, Lilium co-founder and CEO. “It makes Lilium one of the best-funded electric aircraft projects in the world. No other company is promising the economy, speed, range and low-noise levels.”

The Lilium Jet’s electric low noise jet engines allow it to operate in densely populated urban areas, while also covering longer distances at high speed with zero emissions. With the jet requiring no significant infrastructure, the makers say it could provide the opportunity to bring a high-speed transport alternative to small cities and villages as well as large city centres.

The Lilium Jet will be able to travel at up to 300 kilometres per hour for one hour on a single charge–meaning a 19 kilometre journey from Manhattan to JFK Airport, for example, could last as little as five minutes.

“While the notion of a quick, private flight from place to place is an attractive concept, its scope is narrow,” Amos Haggiag, CEO and Co-Founder of Optibus, a platform enabling transit operators to manage city transport in real-time, told Cities Today. “A flying taxi will be limited in its capacity, and unaffordable for most people, positively effecting only a tiny percentage of the populations’ transport.”

Lilium, however, state that the jet’s economy and efficiency means flights are predicted to cost less than the same journey in a normal road taxi. Haggiag still wonders if funds could be more wisely invested in improving mass public transport in cities.

“If we want real improvement in the way that we move throughout our cities, we should invest in initiatives that improve mass transport,” said Haggiag. “Solving congestion by flying above or digging tunnels beneath is bypassing the main problem. We have too many people on the roads driving private vehicles and spending a huge chunk of their income on it, only because existing public transport is not good enough. Investing in better public transit is what will make the most impact and result in the quickest, cheapest, and most efficient travel for the future.”

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