Range anxiety is a big deal for electric cars and is seen by many as the main reason why EVs haven't become mainstream... yet. Cars like the Tesla Model X and Model S recently received an upgrade that pushed the range to 370 miles in some cases, but that's still not enough for some drivers. If range anxiety is an issue in cars where a dead battery means you sit on the side of the road until a tow truck shows up, how will people embrace range anxiety that comes with electric aircraft? A German company called Lilium could be the first to challenge travelers with that question.
Lilium has announced that it has made its first successful test flight earlier this month of its all-electric, five-seat prototype aircraft. The aircraft uses an array of 36 electric jet engines and can take off and land vertically (VTOL) just as a helicopter can. Lilium has backing from some of the biggest names in the technology world including Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, Tencent, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, and other venture capital funds.
The plan for the company is to launch the Lilium Jets as a taxi service that is aiming for launch in 2025. The company wants to complete short flights like New York to Boston trips at prices promising to be "competitive" with existing travel options. The Lilium Jets have to be maneuverable, affordable, and scalable to make this vision happen.
The jets have dual wings for stability during vertical flights, and the electric engines promise the ability to reach full thrust in less than a second. The 36 engines are on movable panels that can change direction to support forward and vertical thrust. Lilium claims that the aircraft will have a cruising speed of 186 mph and enough battery power for an hour-long flight.
The 186 mph cruise speed is said to be achievable using only 10% of the 2,000 available horsepower. The first Lilium Jet completed its maiden flight on May 4, a day familiar to Star Wars fans (May the fourth be with you). The flight test saw the aircraft lift off vertically and then land again.