L ot of things have been happening with electric vehicles (EV’s), but now electric aircraft (EA) are on the rise too. So, on March 12, 2019 things took a big step forward. Airbus, got everyone’s attention with their Urban Air Mobility (UAM) project in Ingolstadt, Germany, the home of Audi. There they presented the firm’s air taxi CityAirbus, an electric aircraft with eight rotors that takes off and lands vertically. It is yet to take to the skies on its maiden flight, but that shouldn’t be too far away. The electric aircraft (EA) will be able to fly up to four passengers on short trips.
Eventually, we will see all modes of transport being ‘electrified’ in one way or another. But it’s still going to be a while before it can be done effectively to make fossil fuel redundant. The air taxi idea is novel, and reminds of the “The Jetsons”, or as scenes depicted in many sci-fi films. Taking to the skies is achievable, but there is a lot of work that has to be done first. Not just on the aircraft, but the air traffic management as well, to make it safe. There is the air blasts of giant eVTOL aircraft and their noise pollution too, so there is plenty to do.
Electric air mobility in the form of ‘air taxis’ is an idea that Uber is doing something about too. They have their Uber Elevate program which they hope to make low cost, short aerial trips a reality. They will need both electric airplanes and eVTOL aircraft to suit a variety of situations. Getting the ideas to work and then be viable is the long term quest.
eVTOL aircraft open up new opportunities for existing regional airports, that don’t have a lot of traffic. But they do have plenty of space for eVTOL aircraft and electric planes. A network of eVTOL heliports could make the concept a reality.
While there are clear advantages for electric motors in terms of maintenance, they offer a lower cost in fuel too. In fact, in Norway, they plan to have all electric domestic air travel by 2040. Also, Harbour Air Seaplanes in Canada will be running an all electric fleet of seaplanes very soon.
So, it won’t be long before we take to the air as well as the road, with electricity.