The Anonymous Widower

Flying Taxi Start-Up Raises $240m From Existing Investors Led By Tencent

The title of this post, is the same as that as this article on the Financial Times.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Lilium, a German flying taxi start-up, has raised $240m from existing investors led by Chinese technology group Tencent to fund the next stage of its growth.

The article has a picture of the Lilium Jet, which looks to be an interesting design.

  • It is an electric VTOL aircraft.
  • Power comes from no less than thirty-six electric motors driving ducted fans.
  • The fans will tilt for take-off and landing.
  • Maximum speed will be 190 mph, with a cruise of 170 mph.
  • Range will be 300 kilometres or 186 miles
  • Total installed power is 320 kW.
  • Less than 150 kW will be needed for cruise.
  • A MW (?) battery will be fitted according to Wikipedia. Do they mean MWh?
  • It can carry two passengers with five from 2025.
  • Empty weight is 440 Kg.
  • Maximum take-off is 640 Kg.
  • Initially, it will have a pilot, but the aim is for a completely autonomous aircraft.

Lilium aims to run a city-to-city taxi service starting in 2025.

I have a few thoughts.

Aerodynamics

There have been a lot of developments in aerodynamics in the last few years and the Lilium Jet and other electric aircraft like the Eviation Alice take full advantage of the developments.

So don’t expect electric aircraft to look convectional, unless perhaps they are an electric-engined conversion of an existing conventional aircraft!

Structure

The structure of aircraft is getting lighter and Airbus and Boeing with the 787 Dreamliner are showing what is possible.

Will an empty weight of 440 Kg be possible? Especially, if that includes the battery.

The Wikipedia figures allow a payload of 200 Kg. That must be only two passengers.

Power

Wikipedia talks about a one MW battery, but I suspect they mean one MWh, as this is the unit of battery capacity.

In Sparking A Revolution, I quoted Hitachi’s predictions and suggested that they could have a five-tonne battery, that held 15 MWh by 2035.

This would mean that a one MWh battery would weigh 333 Kg.

This must be near to the target weight of the battery needed to power a Lilium Jet.

But a one MWh battery that weighs just 333 Kg. would be a tough ask given the limitations of today’s battery chemistry.

Fire

Wikipedia says this about a fire.

The first prototype was destroyed by fire during maintenance on 27 February 2020.

As the Eviation Alice also suffered a fire, are these aircraft pushing batteries too hard.

Conclusion

I am sceptical about some of the figures quoted for the Lilium Jet in Wikipedia.

When I see the following.

  • A Lilium Jet in the air, taking-off and landing.
  • Two passengers flying in the aircraft.
  • A Lilium Jet on a set of scales.

I’ll revise my opinion.

There is this video.

Obviously, I’m doing something wrong in my calculations.

March 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

‘Total Loss’ Feared After Fire Reportedly Damages Eviation Alice Electric Plane Prototype

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Engineering News page of IMechE.

It’s not what you call a flying start!

Even-Boeing had problems with the batteries on the Dreamliner.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Will Flybe Survive?

This article on the BBC is entitled Flybe Boss ‘Focused’ On Turning Airline Around.

This was the start of the BBC article.

Flybe boss Mark Anderson has told staff that he and the management team remain “focused” on turning the airline round.

Mr Anderson’s comments came in an email to staff following reports that the airline is in crisis talks in an attempt to put together a rescue deal.

According to Sky News, Flybe, which has already been bailed out once, has been struggling to secure fresh finance.

So will the airline survive?

A Wake Up To Money Discussion

At 0530 this morning, the BBC Radio 5 Live program discussed Flybe with Lord Adonis, who is a former New Labour Transport Minister giving his fourpennyworth.

The following suggestions and observations were made.

Air Passenger Duty Be Scrapped For Domestic Flights

This has been suggested and it is thought it would give Flybe several tens of millions of pounds of aid.

The feeling was that it wouldn’t be illegal under EU law and it looks like it could be the solution.

But it would apply to all domestic flights within the UK and I can’t see BA, Ryanair and easyJet accepting, this to be available only to Flybe.

It would also cost the Government a lot of tax and why should I as a non-flyer inside the UK have to pick up the tab in other ways?

Certain Flights Could Be Directly Subsidised

To get to some parts of the UK, flying is necessary and under EU rules, essential flights can be subsidised directly.

The programme mentioned that Newquay flights are subsidised and those to Derry could be.

Other Airlines Would Take Over Profitable Routes

This is the law of the jungle and it has always been so.

A Radical Solution

Consider these facts.

Flybe’s Routes Tend To Be Shorter

As examples, Flybe flies.

  • Aberdeen to Belfast–City, Birmingham, Cardiff, Durham/Teesside, Humberside, London–Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Wick
  • Birmingham to Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey, Knock, Paris–Charles de Gaulle and Stuttgart
  • Exeter to Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, London–City, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Paris–Charles de Gaulle.
  • London City, to Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Edinburgh, Exeter and Jersey.
  • Manchester to Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Exeter, Hanover, Isle of Man, Jersey, Knock, Luxembourg, Lyon, Newquay, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Southampton and Stuttgart.

Most if not all of these flights are under 500 miles.

Flybe Flies A Lot Of Smaller Aircraft

The backbone of their fleet is the Dash 8 Q 400, of which they currently have 54 in service, making Flybe one of the largest operators of the type.

  • They are powered by two turboprop engines.
  • They seat 78 passengers.
  • They have a cruise speed of 400 mph.
  • They have a range of 1,200 miles.
  • They can fly into city centre airports like London City and Belfast City.

In my view, they are an ideal aircraft for their shorter routes, with shorter runways and stricter noise restrictions.

Flybe Makes A Lot Of Places Accessible

Boris said this morning on the BBC, that we need regional connectivity and Flybe is part of the solution.

Northern Ireland would fare badly if Flybe ceased to exist, until alternative airlines provided the flights.

London And Edinburgh Is A Rail Journey

Over the last few years, more and more of my friends travel by rail on this route rather than flying.

Why?

  • Trains are now virtually every half hour.
  • Trains go between city centres.
  • Prices are generally comparable.
  • The trains and service has improved.
  • One friend takes her dog.
  • The journey time is getting closer to four hours.

In the next couple of years, there will be more services and journeys will be faster.

But go beyond four hours and train travel is not so attractive, so there will always be a need for regional flights to the North of Scotland, the South and South-West of England and other places where trains are not convenient.

Noise, Pollution and Carbon Emissions

These are aviation’s three main environmental problems and although Flybe’s core fleet is mainly turboprop, they are still not totally environmentally friendly, although they are better than the smaller jets, of which Flybe use a few.

CrossCountry Trains

Several of Flybe’s routes are mirrored by some of the services of CrossCountry Trains.

CrossCountry uses exclusively diesel trains and these will surely be replaced by bi-mode or hydrogen-powered hybrid trains to take advantage of the electrification, where it exists.

A revitalised CrossCountry could take advantage of Flybe’s troubles to increase revenue.

Eviation Alice And Other Electric Aircraft

Eviation Alice and other electric aircraft are on the way.

Within ten years, there will be an electric aircraft that meets this specification.

  • All-electric operation
  • At least twenty passengers
  • A range of 500 miles
  • A half-hour turnround for an hour’s flight.
  • Low noise.
  • No pollution or carbon emission.

Eviation Alice will show the way with a first flight this year.

Note that their first customer is Cape Air, who are a very successful feeder airline in New England.

I am confident of my prediction because the maths and physics, say it is possible.

I also feel that the might of Airbus is the one to watch!

  • They have much to lose at the small end of their market.
  • They are very strong in aerodynamics and lightweight structures.
  • easyJet are reportedly behind the project.

It should also be remembered, that their rival Boeing has too much on their plate.

The Short Term Solution

The short term solution must be to keep Flybe functioning, as the economic damage to far-flung regions will be far greater than the cost of keeping the airline flying.

But it must be done legally and within the rules, as the large profitable carriers have access to some of the world’s best lawyers.

I can see the following happening.

A reduction in Air Passenger Duty for domestic air travel.

Government subsidies for essential routes like those to and from the North of Scotland, Northern Ireland and remoter parts of England and Wales.

BA, Ryanair and easyJet using their lawyers to get equal treatment.

The Long Term Solution

The long term solution will undoubtedly depend on electric aircraft, when they meet the following criteria.

  • Sufficient range and passenger capacity.
  • Sufficient support infrastructure at airports.
  • Full certification
  • Overcoming the scepticism of the general public.

I feel that the first electric aircraft will be about nine-ten seats and they will build up from there and that thirty seat aircraft will be flying in ten years.

They will start on thin routes, where the number of passengers are low.

The government could encourage the fast adoption of electric aircraft, by abolishing all Air Passenger Duty for electric flights.

What would that do for an airline’s marketing and the environment?

Conclusion

Electric aircraft will be one of the factors , that will ensure the survival of regional airlines like Flybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Magnix Revs Up Electric Motors For Harbour Air Seaplane Flight Tests In December

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Geek Wi8re.

The article explains a lot about the state of play in the electric aeroplane market, with two examples possibly starting commercial service in the next few years.

MagniX are the company, who build the electric motors and surely, efficient, lightweight motors are key to flying electric.

November 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

All Electric Plane Startup Eviation Aircraft Secures Orders For 150 Units

The title says it all on this article on Nocamels.

Feeder airlines seem to believe in Alice!

I do think, that this is one of the most exciting ideas in development.

November 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Orders For A New All-Electric Airplane Now Top 150

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Bloomberg.

This looks to be a very positive article as Eviation Aircraft now have more orders for the all-electric Alice aircraft.

This is a couple of paragraphs from the article.

Talks are underway with a fourth possible client in Australia, while the CEO has previously said that prospective customers include major U.S. carriers like United Airlines Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., which are interested in planes to feed their hubs.

The U.K. also represents a natural market, given its relatively small size and plethora of regional airports, Bar-Yohay said. The Alice would be well suited to Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s Connect arm — previously Flybe — which has an average flight time of 55 minutes. The executive was appearing with Virgin founder Richard Branson and CEO Shai Weiss at a technology conference.

I hope the second paragraph is true, as flying in an all-electric aircraft is definitely on my bucket list!

I would feel that if the aircraft does well, then this experience would translate to France.

 

October 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Exclusive Interview: Eviation’s Co-Founder And CEO Omer Bar-Yohay

The title of this post, is the same as that as this article on Helicopter Investor.

As the title says, it is an interview about the Eviation Alice, with the CEO of the company behind the project.

It contains some interesting answers.

The Market

Omer Bar-Yohay made these points.

  • The US, where 70 percent of General Aviation happens.
  • Some interest from regional operators struggling with low margins. Have Eviation got the performance, range and capacity, in line with what regional operators can afford?
  • They were surprised to see the size of interest from freight operators.

Later he says that the current version can handle 2,400 pounds of freight, which is just over a tonne.

What is the value of a tonne of small packets, specialist seafood, agricultural product or medical supplies?

Autonomous Flight

The regulators or the market are not ready for it.

VTOL

There are a lot of other players , ideas and money looking at this.

Focused

Eviation Air seem to be very much focused on getting their plane in the air and to market.

Conclusion

If nothing else, Eviation Air seem to be a professional company and they have carefully researched what their unusual plane can and will do.

Transport is liberally sprinkled with odd ball ideas, that took advantage of radical thinking to create world beating products.

Consider the De Havilland Mosquito, Douglas Skyhawk, Hawker-Siddeley Harrier and Issigonis’s Mini.

There are also several absolute duds around, because companies got the technology wrong.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Who is Alice? – An Introduction To The Bizarre Eviation Electric Aircraft

The title of this post, is the same as this article on Simple Flying.

It is well-worth reading.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Eviation Alice Illustrates The Choice Of A Good Name

I have set up a Google Alert for Eviation Alice and it is finding a lot of articles.

It not only illustrates that the arrival of an electric airliner excites people, but also that the choice of name is a good one.

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Could We See Eviation Alice Aircraft Flying Routes In The UK?

The Eviation Alice nine-seat aircraft may on the face of it, not have many applications in the UK.

But consider the following.

The Eviation Alice Could Be A Very Good Neighbour

Consider.

  • The three electric motors could be reasonably quiet.
  • The propellers are positioned in the vortexes created by the wing-tips and the fuselage.
  • The specification of the plane states that the  propellers can be adjusted for pitch and rpm to reduce noise.

Imagine a single runway airport for electric planes only.

It would be likely, that the noise footprint would be very small!

As the Eviation Alice, is replacing Cessna 401 aircraft at Cape-Air, I suspect that the Alice is designed to be able to use similar runways to the Cessna 401, which can easily land and take-off in a seven hundred metre runway.

This could mean that new runways could be built in places that would currently be rejected.

Would this open up these  possibilities?

New airports being created to serve towns with difficult road and rail links.

New runways close to major airports for electric low-noise aircraft only.

The Eviation Alice Doesn’t Have To Fly High

Typically airliners fly high and getting up and down takes a long time. But they don’t always have to fly that way!

A couple of years ago, I flew from Schipol to Southend. It was a clear day and the pilot flew directly across the North Sea at about three thousand feet and then straight in to Southend Airport.

We arrived very early.

I wonder, if as small quiet electric airliners get more common, that Air Traffic Control will develop ways of using their capabilities and quietness to create new routes.

Imagine flying from Norwich to Edinburgh, which is about 260 nautical miles in an Eviation Alice.

  • I have flown Ipswich to Edinburgh many times and it is uncluttered airspace.
  • You have to cross an airway at Hull
  • Youcan even follow the coast.

Flying lower could save time!

Electric Planes Will Get Bigger

To my mind, nine seats is not enough, but twenty would be useful on routes like the following.

  • Edinburgh And Wick
  • Glasgow and Derry
  • London and Derry
  • London and New Quay
  • Manchester and Derry
  • Norwich and Aberdeen
  • Norwich and Manchester

In some cases they could replace a more expensive full-size airliner.

I suspect that Eviation have the figures.

But suppose, you wee creating a bigger thirty-seat version of the Alice!

  • It would have another twenty-one passengers.
  • With baggage at 90 Kg a person, this would add a weight of under two tonnes.
  • The plane would need a larger volume, but the composite structure would mean only a small increase in weight.
  • The plane would probably have about a forty-percent increase in take-off weight.
  • So it would probably need a similar increase in battery capacity.

If battery energy density increases at three percent per annum, this would mean it would take about ten years.

 

The Eviation Alice Should Be Cheaper To Run Than A Thirty-Seat Aircraft

This could mean that the Eviation Alice could replace larger aircraft on thin routes.

The Eviation Alice Could Replace A Britten-Norman Islander On Some Routes

Some routes like the internal Orkney services probably aren’t suitable for an Eviation Alice, but I suspect others are.

The Eviation Alice Probably Needs A Proper Runway

I suspect that Eviation Alice aircraft need a runway with a firm surface, like concrete or asphalt, although some grass runways might be acceptable.

Feeder Services To Large International Airports

In England, there are not many of these routes, as there are usually trains or good roads.

But in Scotland, there are numerous services from the Far North and the Islands to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Conclusion

If the Eviation Alice is a success, expect to see them or similar electric aircraft in the UK.

Flying in one of these is on my bucket list!

 

June 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment