Aircraft

Lilium's 7-seat eVTOL is more like an air minibus than an air taxi

Lilium's 7-seat eVTOL is more ...
Lilium's 7-seat eVTOL will offer cruise speeds up to 175 mph and a range over 155 miles
Lilium's 7-seat eVTOL will offer cruise speeds up to 175 mph and a range over 155 miles
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Lilium's 7-seat eVTOL will offer cruise speeds up to 175 mph and a range over 155 miles
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Lilium's 7-seat eVTOL will offer cruise speeds up to 175 mph and a range over 155 miles
A relatively spacious cabin, although the seat layout would appear to discourage canoodling
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A relatively spacious cabin, although the seat layout would appear to discourage canoodling
Lilium plans to take commercial services to the skies in 2024
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Lilium plans to take commercial services to the skies in 2024
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Germany's Lilium has announced a 7-seat version of its gorgeous eVTOL air taxi, as well as plans to have a commercial operation up and running by 2024. Oh, and like approximately every other eVTOL company, it's headed to the NASDAQ through a SPAC.

The company says it has been working on this high-capacity version in "stealth mode" since 2018, and that the airframe received CRI-A01 certification basis from EASA in 2020. This does not mean it has received type certification and is ready to go as a commercial aircraft; CRIs are a formal document issued before type certification in order to highlight major technical, administrative or interpretation problems standing between a new aircraft and type certification. They can also be used to help align EASA with third parties like the US FAA, and indeed Lilium has applied for concurrent type certification with both boards.

The aircraft itself promises a cruise speed of 175 mph (280 km/h) at an altitude of 10,000 feet, and "a range of 155+ miles (250+ km), including reserves." We're not sure if that means the range figure takes reserves into account, or if it means the range figure would use up the full reserve capability, but either way it looks pretty decent for a battery-powered aircraft.

And especially one with seven seats. This becomes the biggest passenger eVTOL at the business end of the market, and hints at a business model treating these things more like minibuses than taxis – which isn't a bad way to start things off given the limited infrastructure they'll have access to when these air taxi operations first start taking passengers.

A relatively spacious cabin, although the seat layout would appear to discourage canoodling
A relatively spacious cabin, although the seat layout would appear to discourage canoodling

It's noteworthy that Lilium is sticking with its small, ducted "jet" fans, 36 of which are mounted in four tilting banks along the wings. These things look terrific; the Lilium aircraft is definitely one of the sexiest eVTOLs we've yet seen. With its curvaceous manta ray design and lack of big, dorky propellers, the Lilium looks like the future, where things with big, dorky propellers look like the past.

But while they capture the imagination visually, these tiny fans will have to work overtime to lift this machine, spinning far faster and likely drawing more power than something like the Joby Aviation design, which uses just six tilting rotors of much larger diameter. It's also unclear to us whether a bank of fans like that sitting on top of these thin wings will help or harm the lift and drag equations in horizontal flight.

Still, Lilium's claimed range is a cheeky five miles higher than the range Joby has been quoting, and even if those fans are operating at high RPMs, Lilium still claims they'll be quiet and civilized in an urban environment. So we'll have to see these things duke it out in the sky to find out which design really makes the most sense.

Lilium plans to take commercial services to the skies in 2024
Lilium plans to take commercial services to the skies in 2024

We might get the chance, too. Lilium says it's poised for a 2024 commercial debut, and to fund its way to that point, it's headed for the NASDAQ under a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) listing, merging with Qell Acquisition Corp at a combined company value around US$3.3 billion and a US$10 per share PIPE price.

Listing on the stockmarket via SPAC, or "blank check company," is effectively a quick and dirty way for a company to go public and raise funds without the intense scrutiny and due diligence required for a traditional IPO. SPACs are companies that list themselves on a stock exchange as shell companies, with no products or commercial operations, purely with the intention of raising money to acquire or merge with some mystery company when an opportunity comes up.

The SPAC has variously been described as "the great 2020 money grab" and "a reprehensible instrument," and a study by Renaissance Capital showed that between 2015-2020, completed SPAC mergers have delivered investors a median return nearly 30% lower than traditional IPOs.

Still, it's much easier for the company in question, and it's not illegal, so for the time being, these SPAC listings are going absolutely gangbusters, and they're the only way for you and I to invest in companies like Lilium, as well as key competitors Joby Aviation and Archer. So best get used to 'em.

Source: Lilium

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9 comments
9 comments
Chris Coles
No sight of wheels so we assume that the "model" for PR is entirely dedicated to VTOL, Vertical Takeoff and Landing; except that, myself being a glider pilot, wonders what the range would be with wheels allowing a normal take off from grass strip? Indeed might signal a more normal aircraft design that just might be much lighter, less complex, and cheaper to buy . . . food for thought?
Edward Vix
Chris, looks like there is an approximately 150 mm diameter wheel at the base of each leg.
dan
by now, everybody should know: eVTOLs are really power-hungry, in particular with smaller propellers as theses systems are less efficient. Software-controlled (for manned operation certified) aircraft are very, very complex and therefore expensive. There is a 1000-feet death-zone for all eVTOLs... Lilium's last aircraft has caught fire after (unmanned) test flying... Another fact: Battery technology has improved during the last 3 decades from 200 Wh/kg to ca. 400 Wh/kg. For comparison: Kerosin offers 11'000 Wh/kg. Most eVTOL companies are intransparent with the above facts, as flight/reserve/alternate time of eVTOLS do not comply with safety standards and do not allow to win in a competitive business context. Let's safe the planet and let us use e-bikes, solar panels for our fridges or any stationary demand etc. - if we need or want to fly, physics demands power, and our wallet simple and safe systems.
VincentWolf
It will be game changer when we get those Lithium metal batteries or Lithium Sulfur or Lithium Silicon that have 5 to 7 times the energy density of LiON. Then this plane would have a range of 750 to 1000 miles. And absolutely kill the Jet competition for most national flights.
Solsang
On the third image you clearly see wheels, they look small like all airplane wheels :)
john@johnread.com
With A Thermionic Wave Generator (TWG), and 700 bar compressed hydrogen as a combustible fuel, Lilium range would go to approximately 1100 miles. Craft would retain about one quarter of its battery size, for takeoff and landing, At cruising altitude, it would switch to TWG power. I'll send an illustration of this to Loz.
gettodacessna
After they developed a "5-seater" that no one ever saw fly in the air with occupants or payload, they are onto an even bigger project? Is this another shiny new toy to attract investors?
dan
@gettodacessna: You are too clever for this "investment", as you said, the 5-seater did not fly, nor the 2 seater, nor did they fly with a pilot at all... 1000 feet death zone is not so convenient... But cheers up, they do really good in fundraising, and I guess they have to hire very good lawyer very soon!
@ all enthusiasts: Very likely, you will be right with better batteries in the future! Bad news for you(r) investments: It will take much more time to develop these kind of energy storage (likely not batteries as we know them today). So, if you need a ROI within 10 years, go to solar panels or so! And once these kind of batteries do exist in the lab, take 5 more years to make them ready for the market and then 10 more years to get them through FAA-regulations! :-/
Daishi
I'm holding out for the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) of the eVTOL company that makes a render of a 9 seater with 120 mm props before I invest. They are saying they will have an operation up and running in 3 years but that's too much time to create an entirely new type of aircraft, transportation industry, and regulation. Even if the battery technology to do it doesn't exist yet that's still no excuse. I'm waiting to invest in the company that says they will be 6 months into a commercial global rollout by the end of 2021.