A new class of vehicle is emerging that could turn dreams of “flying cars” into reality. Electric or hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles—known as “eVTOLs”—have the potential to revolutionize the future of human and cargo mobility. A new Deloitte Global report, “Change is in the air – The elevated future of mobility,” analyzes the evolution of eVTOLs and presents a roadmap for navigating disruption ahead.
There has been progress in the development of eVTOLs, but several barriers still stand in the way of widespread deployment. It will be an ongoing challenge to manage and regulate an increasingly diverse airspace. There are also significant psychological barriers to overcome, as consumers grow accustomed to new modes of travel. In a poll of 10,000 consumers, Deloitte Global found that nearly half viewed autonomous aerial passenger vehicles as a potentially viable solution to roadway congestion. But 80 percent believe these vehicles “will not be safe” or are uncertain about their safety.
Advancements to eVTOL technologies (e.g. collision avoidance systems) and ground infrastructure will also need to be made. For example, while onboard technology is maturing, energy management—including battery capacity—remains a limiting factor. Regarding infrastructure, most cities lack the requisite takeoff, landing, and service areas to accommodate eVTOL deployment.
“Considerable strides made in the advancement of elevated mobility, particularly in the last two years,” says Robin Lineberger, Deloitte Global Aerospace & Defense leader. “While the public may focus on the viability of eVTOLs in human transportation, the movement of cargo is just as important and will likely drive early adoption of these aircrafts.”
Deloitte Global projects that between 2020-2025, passenger eVTOL prototypes will be tested and commercialized. In this period, different stakeholders will also work together to form regulation, support infrastructure, and create traffic management systems. In the following years, from 2025-2030, the wide use of cargo eVTOLs will usher in the first wave of commercialized passenger aircraft, with technology improving the safety and reliability of these vehicles. Finally, in 2030 and beyond, autonomous passenger eVTOLs will begin to be adopted, with greater social acceptance resulting in proliferation of the aircraft.
The emergence of eVTOLs could catalyze transformation across many different areas, specifically:
Air traffic management systems: Developing and deploying a new, complete air traffic management system is expected to be key for widescale adoption of eVTOLs. National governments will need to work together and in conjunction with local municipalities to establish a universal set of requirements.
Physical infrastructure: Significant capital will be required to build vertiports and other infrastructure components. To secure adequate funding, extending current public/private partnerships or establishing new models will be necessary.
Aircraft development: Current helicopter developers and manufacturers are at risk of being disrupted. eVTOL aircraft manufacturers stand to gain from the promising potential of the industry. For example, the total US market size could eclipse US$17 billion by 2040.
“Overall, the market for intra-city passenger eVTOLs in the US is projected to grow from US$1 billion in 2025 to US$13.8 billion in 2040, so the opportunity is significant,” adds Lineberger. “However, eVTOLs pose a significant risk to traditional helicopter manufacturers—if they are to successfully traverse this disruption, they should consider reexamining product mixes, business models, or even shifting their focus to evolving markets for unmanned aerial transport.”
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