Air mobility is the topic of the day at the Farnborough International Airshow. Rolls-Royce is there too, showing what it has in mind for an air taxi concept using today’s technology.
The Rolls-Royce eVTOL Concept Has Multiple Uses
When we think of Rolls-Royce and aeronautics, we think of jet engines powering airliners for thousands of miles. The company practically commercialized the jet engine. And when we think of Rolls-Royce cars, we think of big, ultra-luxurious sedans. But green is not the main color of Rolls-Royce.
While Rolls-Royce is synonymous with a certain clientele that demands a certain product quality on the road, the aeronautic part of Rolls-Royce is determined to lower emissions and fly greener. The company has also embraced a greener and environmentally friendly autonomous shipping center. And the old carmaker has been dabbling with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) 102EX project. Well, that was back in 2014. We’re waiting to see how it evolves.
And with all the hype around electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft design, Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace team decided it might be time to feel the airways with a hybrid system. The Farnborough International Airshow is where the company decided to unveil its eVTOL concept.
Another Hat In The Race
Personal air mobility, and particularly air taxis, are not new concepts, but they certainly have benefited from renewed technological improvements in electric propulsion over the past two decades. Realizing the massive potential of batteries that are now packing more energy, meaning less weight for the vehicles or more flying range, is enticing more people and companies to the idea of electric shuttles … in the sky.
Before we hop internationally on pure electricity, hybrid platforms will help the transition and the first place where it will happen is with local air mobility demands, as in air taxis. Uber realized this early on and launched its Elevate summit, which positions the company as the central air taxi mobility leader, a useful move when the company has suffered public setbacks.
Back to the news of the day, though, Chris Cholerton, President Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce, said: “We are also looking further into the future with the pioneering investments the Group is making into electrification. Combined with the rapid progress we’re making in bringing our IntelligentEngine vision to life, we continue to pioneer new technology.”
5 People, 500 Miles, 250 MPH
The performance targets of the Rolls-Royce eVTOL concept are honorable. The aim is for it to have the ability to carry up to 5 passengers at a top speed of about 250 MPH for up to 500 miles. The Rolls-Royce eVTOL would make use of what the company is well known for — turbines. Using Rolls-Royce’s M250 gas turbine, the company plans to embed the tech within the rear of the aircraft. The turbines will also be modified as part of a hybrid electric propulsion system, delivering power to six propellers.
The reason why Rolls-Royce opted for gas turbines instead of battery banks is that the M250 gas turbines produce 500kW with a small payload and footprint. The Rolls-Royce eVTOL concept uses wings that can rotate 90 degrees and bring in its propeller extensions once at the desired altitude.
Rolls-Royce electric mobility is branded as “personal air mobility” so far, but the company says the concept could easily be adapted to air taxi transportation as well as private, cargo, and various military purposes. Rolls-Royce believes it could have testing up in the air by 2020.
According to Rob Watson at Rolls-Royce: “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. Building on our existing expertise in electric technologies and aviation, Rolls-Royce is actively exploring a range of possible markets and applications for electric and hybrid electric flight. We are well placed to play a leading role in the emerging world of personal air mobility and will also look to work in collaboration with a range of partners.
“Rolls-Royce has a strong track record as pioneers in aviation. From developing the first turbo-prop and jet engines to creating the world’s most efficient large civil aero-engine and vertical take-off and landing solutions, we have a very strong pedigree. As the third generation of aviation begins to dawn, it’s time to be pioneers yet again.”