The German Aerospace Center DLR is has investigating the overall system of a hybrid-electric short-haul aircraft for up to 100 passengers together with Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Bauhaus Luftfahrt e.V..This program is part of the SynergIE joint project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).
Research efforts are focused on new aircraft configurations that can be successfully operated commercially with significantly lower emissions and reduced noise pollution. As a final design for an aircraft with distributed hybrid-electric propulsion, the researchers selected and evaluated a concept with turbogenerators in the fuselage and 10 electric motors along the leading edge of the wing as the best solution out of the various possible arrangements. The optimal design and installation of the propellers makes it possible to reduce the chord of the wing and size of the rudder, and thus reduce energy consumption by approximately 10 percent.
“In conventional regional aircraft, the wings are often oversized in order to achieve good performance during take-off and landing,” explains Martin Hepperle from the DLR Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology. “These aircraft then have excessively high energy consumption during cruising flight.”
The flight characteristics of the prototype have already been tested in the DLR AVES flight simulator. In future, remaining questions on the aeroacoustics of the distributed propellers and on optimal flap systems for landing approaches are to be resolved.
Xpeng Motors presented their urban air mobility (UAM) vision and the eVTOL designs developed by their subsidiary HT Aero which Xpeng acquired last year. This is the first time that Xpeng Auto presented its UAM and eVTOL in Europe.
The founder and CEO of HT Aero, Mr. Deli Zhao, through pre-recorded video, and the European Customer Insights and Operations Director Dr. You Jiaxi of Xpeng Auto on-site delivered a speech “Exploring the Future of Travel” on the first day of European Rotors, introducing the solution for future three-dimensional travel envisioned by Xpeng Auto, X2 two-seat eVTOL developed by HT Aero and the design concept of their next generation eVTOL being developed by HT Aero.
In the speech Dr. You revealed that Xpeng Auto plan to begin test flying X2 eVTOL in Europe beginning in the first half of next year.
On November 8 Embraer held a grand conference on sustainable aviation development planning. The President and CEO of Embraer Commercial Aircraft announced Embraer’s sustainable aviation plan and unveiled four matching aircraft design concepts.The overall goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.
According to Embraer’s plan, in 2030 all models produced by Embraer can use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) reducing carbon emissions by 25% and helping the global transportation aviation industry to achieve full net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To this end, Embraer plans to take a two-step technological development path: First, in the short to medium term, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is the main development goal to use existing infrastructure and aircraft engines and avilable technology as much as possible. The long-term plan is to take hydrogen as the aviation fuel.
Accordingly Embraer tested the full-electric demonstrator this year, and plan to test the hydrogen fuel cell demonstrator in 2025, to fly the eVTOL prototype in 2026, and by 2030 Embraer plan to have existing models to be fully compatible with 100% SAF and plan to launch new turboprop models that are fully compatible with SAF. The new hydrogen turboprop model will be tested in 2045, and the new hydrogen line of aircraft will be launched in 2050.
Embraer has cooperated with Orlando Airport in the United States to build SAF supply facilities, and cooperated with a number of SAF companies to develop and industrialize SAF, and cooperated with engine supplier Pratt & Whitney to make the existing engines compatible with SAF.
Embraer believes that Embraer’s advantage over electric aviation startups is its mature and systematic research and development capabilities, and that its advantage over other OEMs is its cost structure and relatively more flexible corporate structure, especially in turboprop area.
Embraer will not only pay attention to urban air mobility (UAM) and eVTOL, but also will attache great importance to the development of regional air mobility (RAM). Embraer believe that RAM can make full use of the existing infrastructure, and the new aircraft models developed by Embraer will be suitable for RAM use case.
On November 9 Hyundai Motor Group announced the name of its urban air mobility (UAM) division: Supernal. The UAM division is based in Washington DC, US and is headed by Jaiwon Shin, the former NASA deputy adminstrator.
Hyundai Motor Group stepped into the eVTOL and UAM arena in 2019 when it set up the UAM division and unveiled its first eVTOL concept vehicle S-A1 at the CES in 2019, and became an OEM partner with Uber Elevate.
Hyundai Motor Group target 2028 for the launch of its UAM service. At Supernal website it states that Hyundai will focus on four elements in their eVTOL and UAM development: safety, noise, affordability and “people first”.
Today at the Xpeng Technology Day, Mr.He Xiaopeng the chairman and CEO of Xpeng Auto, one of the leading Chinese electric car manufacturer, presented an eVTOL flying car design. This concept can take off and land vertically as well as can drive on the road, aka a true “flying car”.
Xpeng’s aviation subsidiary HT Aero, which Xpeng acquired last year, will be in charge of this flying car development.
The design will have two folding rotors with both collective and cyclic controls. in road mode the flying car will be 4.98m long and 2m wide while in flight mode it will be 12.2m long and 7m wide. The flying car will have near 1.9 ton maximum takeoff and landing weight.
Xpeng target 2024 for mass production and 100 million RMB price tag (156.6k USD)
Aura Aero and Amedeo formed a strategic partnership agreement and a letter of intent for 200 19-seat electric regional aircraft called “ERA” that Aura Aero is developing as a clean sheet design.
Gabriella Lapidus, Chief Commercial Officer at Amedeo, said, “We are very pleased to be partnered with AURA AERO in leading such an important climate supporting initiative for the future. For Amedeo, sustainable aviation is more than aspirational and we are committed and focused on partnerships in sustainable aviation that will define the next three decades in aerospace. We have seen various concepts showcased in the market and AURA AERO has an edge with the skillset, talent and design that we stand behind. Their prototype, INTEGRAL, is the first stepping stone to a larger electrical regional aircraft.”
AURA AERO is based in Toulouse at the heart of the aeronautic hub. It is a three-year-old startup developing design and manufacturing processes for fully digital electrical aircraft, initially starting with 19 pax and a cargo version, while already flying an aerobatic capable training aircraft that will go electrical in 2022, becoming the trainer of choice for airline flight schools and military ab-initio and advanced programs.
Amedeo is a global leading aircraft Asset Manager and principal investor in aircraft leasing. The team has more than 140 years of combined experience managing an extensive portfolio of aircraft on behalf of various investors. Amedeo has financed a wide spectrum of aircraft types with long-term relationships with OEMs, airlines and financiers. The Managament team has a proven track record of successfully spearheading new technologies across various assett classes.
The Chinese eVTOL startup Huitian Aerotech. annouced that they successfully completed over $500 million USD series A financing with over $ 1billions valuation led by IDG, Xpeng Motor, 5Y Capital and joined by Sequioa, GGV, GL Ventures, Eastern Bell Capital & YF Capital. This is the largest investment in eVTOL and electric aviation in general in Asia so as of today.
Huitian was acquired by the Chinese electric car company Xpeng Motors and the founder of Xpeng Motors himself Mr.He Xiaopeng in 2020. Xpeng Motors is one of the largest and one of the most promising electric car companies in China. Xpeng Motors is listed at NASDAQ and has a market cap of about 35 billions USD.
Huitian have been developing eVTOL for several years and have test flown several models of single-seat and two-seat eVTOL. Their latest eVTOL product is X2 two-seat as shown here
Today at the Airbus Summit event with subject “Pioneering Sustainable Aerospace” Airbus helicopter revealed the new design of CityAirbus “NextGen”. Airbus expect to start test flight of the prototype in 2023 and obtain the type certificate from EASA in 2025.
The new CityAirbus has wing surfaces for extra lift during cruise and eight propellors in fixed positions for lift and cruise. Noticeably the head of Airbus UAM Joerg Muller said in the discussion that the CityAirbus NextGen has “no movable surfaces and no tilting parts.” This can possibly mean that the aircraft simply leans forward at a specific angel of attack in cruising with the help of the eight lift propellors and without any propulsion dedicated to horizontal flight.
CityAirbus NextGen will have four seats, will have a range of 80 kilometers and cruise speed of 120 km/h.
The reply of the 1st day of Airbus Summit can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7WdCIkBQJs
On September 15 the German eVTOL startup Lilium went initial public offering (IPO) at NASDAQ. It was the third eVTOL company going IPO after Ehang in December 2019 and Joby in August this year, and was the second eVTOL company going IPO through the fast-track SPAC approach.
Lilium obtained $584 million in cash through IPO, an amount much less than the $830 million projection when it announced the IPO plan in March mainly because 65% of the SPAC company’s shareholders chose to redempt their stock and not participate in the IPO transaction. Lilium was valued at $3.3 billion in this IPO.
The Chinese eVTOL startup Volant Aerotech today revealed the investors of their first round of fundraising in amount of “millions USD”: Shunwei Capital founded by Xiaomi’s founder Mr.Lei Jun in 2011 managing total of near 3 billions USD and 2 billions RMB assets, and Ventech China, a French VC managing more than 400 millions Euro.
Volant Aerotech was founded in Shanghai in 2021 by a group of aviation veterans from COMAC (the Chinese equivalent of Boeing and Airbus) as well as the Chinese subsidiaries of Airbus, GE, Honeywell and Collins. The company revealed very little about their eVTOL design except an obscure image of the design concept. The company intend to test fly a sub-scale prototype by the end of this year.