Rolls Royce presents its hybrid flying taxi in Farnborough

The company foresees that the EVTOL will have capacity for up to five people and will be able to reach a maximum speed of 322 km / h; it is expected to be active at the beginning of 2020

The “flying taxi” is just around the corner. The British engine maker, Rolls-Royce, revealed its project to develop a hybrid electric vehicle that takes off and lands vertically, and could be in the air within five years.

“We are learning about the technology we will need tomorrow”

Rolls Royce announced plans at the Farnborough Airshow, near London, at a time when other industry groups are exploring this promising sector.

The automotive and aeronautical group expects to produce, over the next 18 months, a prototype of its “flying taxi” that could be active at the beginning of the 2020s.

The Rolls Royce EVTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing Vehicle) would have capacity for four or five passengers and could reach a maximum speed of 322 km / h, with a flight range of 805 km.

“We will see a similar product fly in this market in three to five years, and we will demonstrate the system in two years,” said Rob Watson, in charge of the Rolls-Royce electrical division.

The hybrid vehicle, in whose development several million dollars have already been invested, will use a traditional gas turbine completed by an electrical system.

Rolls-Royce studies in parallel a 100% electric product that is not however as evolved as the hybrid “flying taxi”.

“There is an emerging market for fully electric aircraft but we believe that there is a level of requirements that today an all-electric system can not provide,” added Rob Watson.

Hybrid propulsion

“The ‘all electric’ is the means to move around a city (…) but to go from London to Paris we will want an artifact that allows us to travel that distance, and it is the hybrid propulsion systems that will occupy that market,” he says. Rob Watson.

Rolls-Royce is not only in the market of the hybrid “flying taxi”. Other groups, such as Uber, the “Kitty Hawk” project supported by Google, Lilium Aviation in Germany, Safran in France and Honeywell in the United States carry out research in this sector.

The shift of the aerospace industry towards electric propulsion is reminiscent of that of the automotive industry, in which electric cars gain ground in terms of popularity and performance.

“Look at the automotive industry, historically, everyone had an internal combustion engine, and over time they started adding electric capacity and they started to see electric cars,” said Rob Watson.

“In the same way, we are introducing a hybrid propulsion system in this market, because it provides capacity for autonomy and performance.”

Possible ‘Disruptor’

David Stewart, aviation specialist at the Oliver Wyman consultancy, points out that the aerospace sector was pressured to respect the environment more.

“Electric propulsion can be a possible ‘Disruptor’ in the way engines are powered,” he says.

“We are still far from electric power replacing kerosene, but never say ‘I will not drink this water'”.

For him, the Rolls-Royce “taxi taxi” concept is actually a development platform to test the new technology.

The commercialized product will probably be an improved version of the “flying taxi”, which will have between 10 and 15 seats, with more possibilities of use, according to Stewart.

“Over time we will have more electrical capacity for larger planes, and that is really what we are thinking about today, we are learning about the technology we will need tomorrow,” concluded Rob Watson.

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