Rolls-Royce unveiled its hybrid electric vehicle project that takes off and lands vertically
The "flying taxi" is coming soon: the British industrial group Rolls-Royce has unveiled its plan to develop a hybrid electric vehicle that takes off and lands vertically, and could fly within five years.
The group, headquartered in Derby, central England, presented for the first time its project at the fair in Farnborough, near London, while other manufacturers rush to this niche.
The aerospace giant hopes to build a prototype of its "flying taxi" in the next eighteen months: it could potentially borrow the air in the early 2020s. This aircraft will accommodate four or five passengers, at a speed maximum of 322 km / h and with a flying capacity of 805 km.
"We will see a similar product fly in three to five years, and we will demonstrate this system in two years," said AFP Rob Watson, in charge of electrical Rolls-Royce .
The hybrid vehicle, which has already cost several million pounds in development, will use a traditional gas turbine complete with an electric system.
At the same time, Rolls-Royce is studying an all-electric product that is not as advanced as the hybrid "flying taxi". "There is an emerging market for all-electric aircraft, but for us such a system can not really meet today's requirements," adds Watson.
- Hybrid Propulsion -
"The" all-electric "is the way to navigate in a city (...) but to go from London to Paris, we want a machine that allows to go through this interval. And it is the hybrid propulsion systems that will occupy this market. Says Rob Watson.
Rolls-Royce is not alone in the hybrid "flying taxi" market. 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, are conducting research in the sector.
The shift from aerospace to electric propulsion is reminiscent of electric in the automobile: all-electric cars are gaining ground in terms of popularity and performance.
"Look at the car industry. Historically, everyone had an internal combustion engine. Over time, more electric capacity has been added and electric cars have appeared, "said Rob Watson.
"In the same way, we introduce a hybrid propulsion system in this market because it brings amplitude and performance".
- Disruption -
David Stewart, aviation specialist at strategy consulting firm Oliver Wyman, says the aerospace industry is under pressure to become more environmentally friendly.
"Electric propulsion can create a disruption in the way the machines are powered," he told AFP. "The electric is not about to replace kerosene, but never say never".
For him, the Rolls-Royce flying taxi concept is actually a development platform for testing new technology.
The commercialized product will likely be an improved version of the Flying Taxi, which will have 10 to 15 seats, with more opportunities for use, according to Stewart.
"Over time, we have more electrical capacity for bigger and bigger planes - and that's really what we're thinking about today. We are in a process of learning the technology that we will need tomorrow, "concludes Rob Watson.