How fast should electric vertical take-off & landing (eVTOL) aircraft zoom over our heads? Uber Elevate seems to think 150 mph is a good speed, and better than traditional helicopters.
I just wrote about Mark Moore, the director of engineering for Uber Elevate, in a piece on Jaunt Air Mobility. Moore believes eVTOL urban air mobility (UAM) requires achieving a state of technology that will enable 3 hours of continuous flight operation. He also sees the state of eVTOL design evolving toward a configuration of 1 pilot and 4 passengers with winged aircraft.
Uber Elevate also thinks winged eVTOL will be crucial for UAM. It provides the platform needed to move passengers efficiently in the air from city vertiports.
Big urban centers are where UAM will find the critical mass needed with it already available vertiports. The symposium said Sao Paolo, Brazil, already has 270 vertiports, which is considered to be the most of any city globally, according to the aerospace and transportation venture Nexa Advisors.
Interestingly enough, Moore doesn’t see wingless multicopters as a viable option, at least when it comes to Uber Elevate’s mission. He argues that these platforms lack the speed and efficiency of a winged aircraft. This is also something Olivier LE LANN told me at LA Automobility when he unveiled his EVA eVTOL with retractable wings.
Uber Sees 150 MPH eVTOL Advantage Over Traditional Helicopters
The advantages modern UAM eVTOL designs have over traditional helicopters come down to safety, cost, noise, and efficiency. The electric distributed propulsion systems currently designed and tested show great potential over internal combustion engines (ICE) and turbines inefficiencies. With growing demand in the “rideshare” economy, Uber Elevate sees electric and hybrid air taxis as revolutionizing currently expensive helicopter transit.
Moore noted that UAM at less than 50¢ per mile is one of Uber Elevate’s main targets. That price is commonly associated with car travel. I heard the same at the Bell Nexus unveiling at CES this year.
Besides these points, Moore says one of eVTOLs’ leading points of potential is in reduced maintenance costs — by eliminating costly traditional helicopter controls and gearbox maintenance. Another important point is that, by reducing rotor tip speeds, eVTOL aircraft cut down on noise, which could slow down UAM adoption. The lower rotor tip speeds also improve vehicle performance in low-speed, high-wind conditions around buildings.
The era of eVTOL UAM is here to stay. Things are getting interesting.