Rolls-Royce PLC is stepping into the expanding but still conceptual “air taxi” market segment, proposing an electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) vehicle that is indicated could be airborne in about three to five years, “as soon as the early 2020s.”
The notion of an air taxi is not new but a version of the idea is gaining popularity that applies new technologies plus the desire for personal services to address anticipated problems. Airbus has sponsored an auto-piloted passenger aircraft, and it is developing a separate, concept service with Audi AG to offer "seamless" travel with cars and helicopters in highly congested cities.
“The EVTOL – or personal air mobility – market is emerging as a result of technological advances and a need to meet the demands that will be placed upon conventional transport systems as more of the world’s population lives in large cities plagued by congestion,” according to Rolls-Royce’s announcement.
Rolls said its new EVTOL project also is part of a strategy to ‘champion electrification’ and realize our ambition to become the world’s leading industrial technology company”.
Introduced at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow, in England, the concept EVTOL aircraft uses the Rolls M250 gas turbine to generate electricity that would power six, low-noise electric propulsors. The hybrid design also would have a battery for energy storage, and because it would be fueled by the gas turbine, recharging would not be necessary.
The aircraft would carry four or five passengers approximately 500 miles at speeds up to 250 mph, and it would use existing infrastructure (airports, helipads), Rolls-Royce noted.
The wings would rotate 90 degrees, so the vehicle could to take off or land vertically. The propellers on the wing could fold away once the craft has reached cruising height, to reduce drag and cabin noise, while the two rear propellers would provide thrust.
Rolls also predicted its EVTOL would provide more efficient travel with low emissions.
“Electrification is an exciting and inescapable trend across industrial technology markets and while the move to more electric propulsion will be gradual for us, it will ultimately be a revolution,” stated Rob Watson, head of Rolls-Royce’s Electrical team.