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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on August 14th, 2019 | by Nicolas Zart

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Can Uber Elevate Commit to $700/hr eVTOL Flight by 2023?

August 14th, 2019 by  


Even the FAA likes the idea of electric vertical take-off & landing (eVTOL) and more traditional electric airplanes, or “electric conventional take-off & landing (eCTOL) aircraft.” Joking a bit, however, acting FAA chief Dan Elwell said at Uber Elevate’s Elevate Summit in Washington, DC: “When I put my FAA regulator hat on, I’ve got a whole new bucket of stuff to lose sleepover.” Can Uber Elevate meet its targets, such as $700/h eVTOL flight and cost parity with road transport?

Can Uber Elevate Meet its Tough $700/hr 2023 Target?

When it comes to estimating the future numbers of our coming urban air mobility (UAM) market, there are two dodgy points of reference. Comparing an estimated all-inclusive air taxi technology’s price per mile to that of today’s car taxi rides is tricky at best. But it grabs attention. It grabbed mine. Bell saying it wants to match the price of an Uber car ride for its Nexus eVTOL at CES this year is certainly a good example of that.

Bell Nexus eVTOL UAM Air Taxi Bell Nexus eVTOL UAM Air Taxi Bell Nexus eVTOL UAM Air Taxi Bell Nexus eVTOL UAM Air Taxi`Photos by Nicolas Zart

The cost analysis gathered every planned specification, existing comparable, known certification hurdle, and expected maintenance timeline to estimate lifecycle operating cost for electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles. After analyzing the data, the conclusion was that Uber could really do it.

Pipistrel & Honeywell eVTOL

The analysis — with a heavy-handed marketing angle to it — was backed by eVTOL solution architects and researchers. Nate Sirirojvisuth, Ph.D., led the team made up of former cost engineers at Raytheon SAS, Northrop Grumman, and other aerospace and aviation companies.

Ryan Doss, Head of Product & Business at Karem Aircraft said, “Affordability is key for Urban Air Mobility, which makes accurate, unbiased cost estimates as essential as safety analysis and performance calculations. PRICE’s tool addresses this need and is versatile enough to use throughout the development process.”

Anthony DeMarco, Price Systems Founder & President added: “Uber’s cost-per-flight hour objectives are very challenging, so it’s essential that the life cycle cost impact of every air vehicle design decision is modeled and evaluated against the objectives.”

Can Uber Elevate Target $700 Per Flight Hour, Including Everything?

Uber Elevates’ aerial ridesharing service targets $700 per flight hour with development costs, construction, operation, maintenance amortization, including pilot salaries. But can Uber reach these numbers in 4 years given the current state of the technology? DeMarco seems to think so.

According to a Rotor & Wing International article: “It’s certainly challenging, 2023 is certainly challenging. But, if I look at what Jaunt is doing and all the other partners — they’re pushing hard. … Every concept has some technical challenges. Talking with teams and suppliers, the suppliers seem to be up for the challenges. There’s definitely optimism throughout the supply chain.”

Uber Elevate VTOL

The two roadblocks are evident. The infrastructure needs to develop as electric UAM technology matures, and international air traffic agencies need to cement a solid UAM foundation to allow for a smooth operation. See our AirbusUTM article for more information.

In the meantime, the FAA and EASA are both dipping their toes into eVTOL and eCTOL regulations — timidly, but nonetheless.

For more: see Uber’s whitepaper, “Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Air Transportation.” 
 





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About the Author

Nicolas was born and raised around classic cars of the 1920s, but it wasn't until he drove an AC Propulsion eBox and a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Ever since he has produced green mobility content on various CleanTech outlets since 2007 and found his home on CleanTechnica. His communication passion led to cover electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, renewable energy, test drives, podcasts, shoot pictures, and film for various international outlets in print and online. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he has forged in those industries. His favorite taglines are: "There are more solutions than obstacles." and "Yesterday's Future Now"



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