New breed of flying cars could transform movement of people and cargo

US market for electric-powered 'flying cars' could reach $17.7bn by 2040, says Deloitte

Uber, Airbus and other firms are part of a taskforce that aims to bring flying vehicles, such as Joby Aviation's conceptual Joby S2 vehicles, to the masses. Courtesy Joby Aviation
Uber, Airbus and other firms are part of a taskforce that aims to bring flying vehicles, such as Joby Aviation's conceptual Joby S2 vehicles, to the masses. Courtesy Joby Aviation

An emerging class of electric vehicle could accelerate proposed global adoption of "flying cars" – which so far have faced barriers as a viable mode of transportation, according to a new report.

Electric or hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, known as ‘eVTOLs’, have the potential “to revolutionise the future of human and cargo mobility” as soon as 2025, according to a report on the future of mobility by Deloitte Global, the professional services firm.

“Considerable strides have been made in the advancement of elevated mobility, particularly in the last two years,” said Robin Lineberger, leader of Deloitte’s global aerospace and defense team.

“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.”

Flying cars are being touted as a transport solution in congested cities, as a way of moving people and goods around faster, taking the pressure off roads and other infrastructure and reducing transportation costs. The UAE is among countries that have strategies for exploring the viability of flying cars, while Saudi-backed Uber, Japan's Toyota and French planemaker Airbus are among 21 companies that make up a taskforce created to examine the case for bringing flying cars to market.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley is bullish, predicting that advances in technology for unmanned aerial vehicles could create a $2.9 trillion industry by 2040, according to a report from the bank last December. Its most pessimistic view puts the potential value at about $615 billion.

“The intersection of many technologies, such as ultra-efficient batteries, autonomous systems, and advanced manufacturing processes are spawning a flurry of activity in this space,” Adam Jonas, head of Morgan Stanley’s global auto and shared mobility research team, said at the time.

Deloitte forecasts that the size of the of the passenger eVTOL market (excluding cargo and other commercial uses) will reach $17.7bn by 2040. The report predicts that prototypes will be tested and commercialised between 2020-2025, mainly in the field of cargo transportation. During this time, stakeholders will work together to form regulation, establish necessary infrastructure and create traffic management systems.

In the following years, from 2025-2030, initial use of cargo eVTOLs will usher in the first wave of commercialised passenger aircraft, with technology improving the safety of these vehicles. Finally, in 2030 and beyond, autonomous passenger eVTOLs will start being adopted, “with greater social acceptance resulting in proliferation of the aircraft”, Deloitte’s report said.

“Overall, the sub-market for intra-city passenger eVTOLs in the US is projected to grow from $1bn in 2025 to $13.8bn in 2040, so the opportunity is significant,” Mr Lineberger added. In particular, the potential size of the eVTOL aircraft manufacturing market could eclipse $17bn by 2040, with implications for traditional plane and helicopter makers.

“eVTOLs pose a significant risk to traditional helicopter manufacturers which, if they are to successfully traverse this disruption, should consider re-examining product mixes, business models, or even shifting their focus to evolving markets for unmanned aerial transport,” Mr Lineberger said.

There will be additional ramifications for governments and urban developers, the report said. Governments will have to work together to develop and deploy new air traffic management systems, while significant capital will be required to build landing pads and other infrastructure necessary to operate aerial vehicles, prompting the need for new public-private partnerships.

There are also significant psychological barriers to overcome, Deloitte said. The firm said it surveyed 10,000 consumers and found that 80 per cent of those people believe such vehicles “will not be safe”, or are uncertain about their safety.

Published: June 4, 2019 07:30 AM

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