The eVTOL Revolution is Already Here
What is eVTOL?
Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing is not new technology it is an innovative use of existing technology. While some may refer to eVTOL aircraft as "flying cars," they are more precisely electric helicopters. At the moment, of course, since piloting one is off the table, they are appropriately called an air taxi service.
Helicopters typically take off vertically (VTOL), whereas planes require a runway. When an electric motor powers a helicopter, it becomes an eVTOL aircraft.
A helicopter that uses electricity for power is a eVTOL. (pronounced ee-vee-toll)
These electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (e-VTOLs) aircraft are capable of carrying up to 4 passengers and allow for a 10-minute trip with no emissions at all. The aircraft can fly at a height of up to 2,000 feet, which allows for a unique perspective on the Chicago skyline.
The implications for package delivery services are immense. With the ability to transport packages quickly and efficiently, e-VTOL aircraft could revolutionize the way we think about package delivery. Companies like Amazon and FedEx are already exploring the use of drones for deliveries, but e-VTOL aircraft could offer an even faster and more efficient solution.
In addition to package delivery, e-VTOL aircraft could also have major implications for the ride-sharing industry. Companies like Uber and Virgin are already exploring the use of e-VTOL aircraft for transportation, and the launch of the new air taxi route in Chicago is a major step forward in the development of this technology.
Air Taxi is Reality
On Thursday, Joby Aviation, a publicly traded electric air vehicle company with a current market cap of $3.1 billion, announced that it has obtained the necessary certification from the Federal Aviation Administration to commence on-demand commercial air taxi operations, according to TechCrunch. It still has a way to go but is starting to plan US operations in Texas.
This is a significant milestone for Joby as it moves closer to its goal of launching its electric aerial ridesharing service commercially in 2024. However, the startup still has more work to do before it can transport passengers in its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
There are many firms working on eVTOL but a few stand out as frontrunners.
American Airlines confirmed delivery spots for 50 eVTOL aircraft from Vertical Aerospace, another eVTOL pioneer. Vertical aerospace is gaining ground faster than it's rivals. American's order is for 250 of the company's VX4 aircraft with an option to buy more.
Vertical Aerospace already has the world's largest open-book order of 1600 eVTOL VX4 vehicles to international buyers. It hopes to make Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) a reality for a whole new group of travelers.
United and Archer Announce Air Taxi Deal
United Airlines and Archer Aviation have announced its project to team up to launch a new commercial air taxi route in Chicago. The flight path will connect downtown Chicago with O'Hare International Airport, with plans to open the route in 2025.
The electric air taxis that will be used on this new route are part of a new form of eco-friendly transportation supported by the Mayor that uses electric motors and batteries. Archer will produce 250 of it's "Midnight" eVTOL this year.
The airline has ordered at least 200 electric flying taxis from Eve Air Mobility and paid a $10 million deposit with Archer to launch a route between Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport next year. The move comes as part of United's ongoing effort to reduce its carbon footprint by reducing emissions from ground operations and improving fuel efficiency across its fleet, which includes more than 1,000 aircraft that carry more than 300 million customers each year.
United and Archer are working with the city of Chicago to develop smaller paths to surrounding communities. This will allow for more efficient air travel and make it more cost-competitive for passengers. Additionally, United Airlines and Archer Aviation have also partnered with other companies to provide a complete end-to-end solution that includes electric charging stations at airports across America, as well as autonomous drone technology that will deliver packages directly to customers' doors within minutes of them ordering online or through their phone app.
The program is initially limited to deep-pocketed business travelers, but the cost of the service is competitive with other air taxi services like Uber Elevate. The electric planes will be operated by Archer Aviation, a company that already has a fleet of six aircraft that are used for sightseeing and charter flights along Chicago's lakefront.
Chicago is a city that relies heavily on ground-based transportation. Taxis and rideshares are the most common way to get around, but the robust public transportation system built around elevated trains and buses also helps residents get around town. Chicago's airport commute makes it an ideal testbed for flying taxis. For example, the drive to or from O'Hare, in the western suburb of Rosemont, can take anywhere from 35 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic; even in one of the city’s elevated trains, it can take around 45 minutes. But Archer estimates a flight in one of its air taxis will only take 10 minutes to travel from O’Hare to its destination at a downtown helipad.
The first route will operate between O'Hare International Airport and Downtown Chicago, with stops at Midway International Airport and McCormick Place Convention Center (the latter two destinations have been added since the initial announcement). The flights will run every 15 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes during non-peak times; they'll depart from O'Hare at 6:45 am Monday through Friday, returning at 5:30 pm on weekdays or 10 pm on weekends--with additional departures available depending on demand.
Other airport routes are in the planning stage.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the initiative, saying it will offer a convenient form of travel for residents and visitors. "The launch of this electric air taxi route is an innovative way to reduce congestion on our roads, improve air quality, and contribute to the fight against climate change," she said in a statement.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has committed to converting all buses to electric by 2040. The 23 electric buses currently deployed will be joined by another 26 in 2021, bringing the total number of CTA's electric fleet up to 49. The city of Chicago has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that "no matter who you are or where you live if you're in Chicago, we want everyone to have access to clean air."
Other similar congestion-avoiding routes are being planned as the vehicles demonstrate their efficiency and get the necessary FAA approvals.
United Airlines and Archer Aviation are working with the city of Chicago to develop smaller paths to surrounding communities. This will allow for more efficient air travel and make it more cost-competitive for passengers.
With electric air taxis, we can decarbonize our means of transportation and take a step forward in the fight against climate change. This is because they use zero-emissions technology, which means they do not contribute to global warming. In addition, their batteries are recyclable and can be reused once they have been depleted.
Other companies are working on eVTOL aircraft. Both traditional aerospace companies and new startups are working on eVTOL aircraft for a wide variety of applications, and there are too many to list.
Some of the larger firms include Uber, Airbus, Boeing, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, JetBlue, American Airlines, and Virgin, among many others that are entering the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) age which appears to be here already.
Someday, when the Uber app will signal you to watch for the tail number on your eVTOL as the driver approaches. Remember to rate your experience on that ride. "Friendly pilot, Clean eVTOL."
The launch of this new electric air taxi route is an innovative way to reduce congestion on Chicago's roads, improve air quality, and contribute to the fight against climate change. Archer was in talks with other major hubs, LAX and Miami who will probably also seek deals like Chicago's.