The Lilium VTOL electric jet may sound like something out of a science-fiction film, but a whisper-quiet flying car that takes off like a helicopter (that is, no runway required) may be a reality in a few years.
As Conde Nast Traveler reports, German manufacturer Lilium hopes to make personal electric jets a reality as early as 2018.
— FlyPal® (@iFlyPal) May 10, 2016
“Elegance, speed, comfort and sustainability – fusing to a new form of traveling, defining a completely new form of freedom. This is the Lilium Jet, the world’s first electric vertical take-off and landing jet. Start your journey from anywhere and travel faster and more elegantly than in your boldest dreams.”
The two-seater Lilium VTOL (VTOL stands for “Vertical Takeoff and Landing”) Electric Jet won’t require a runway to take off; all you need is a space of 49-feet by 49-feet (about the size of a back yard). Unfortunately, according to Lilium’s CEO, Daniel Wiegand, you won’t be able to buy a Lilium Electric Jet and fly it in and out of your back yard just yet; for now, you’ll still have to use an airport or airfield, thanks to those pesky FAA regulations.
“We are going for a plane that can take off and land vertically and does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport.”
You won’t be able to fly it at night. Also, you’ll still have to get your pilot’s license and undergo about 20 hours of additional training.
Once you get past those barriers, however, the Electric Jet offers some other exciting features. It can go up to 300 miles on a single charge, and it cruises at about 180 mph (with a top speed of 250 mph). By comparison, a Cessna 182 (a traditional, gasoline-powered personal aircraft that requires a runway) has a cruising speed of 173 mph, and a top speed of 201 mph.
— Frontier Europe (@frontiereurope) May 8, 2016
But don’t get your hopes up for your own electric jet just yet. As of this writing, the Lilium VTOL only exists on paper; a prototype test flight is planned for 2017, and if — and that’s a big “if” — everything goes according to plan, production might be up and running by January, 2018.
And if you’re wondering how much the Lilium Electric Jet is going to cost, you can keep wondering. As of now, there’s now word on price. However, expect some sticker shock. A brand new Cessna 172-SP will set you back around $307,000, according to Flying. And comparing a Cessna to an electric jet is like comparing a Honda Civic to a Tesla Roadster. But then again, according to Gizmag, Lilium promises that the Electric Jet will cost “far less” than similar-sized aircraft. So who knows?
Even so, the Lilium VTOL may not ever come to fruition at all. For decades, manufacturers have tried — and failed — to get vertical takeoff aircraft to consumers. The reasons why are legion, mostly having to do with cost. But engineering expert Lynn Taylor, writing in Quora, says that safety is a concern as well.
“If your car breaks down, you pull over to the side of the road. If your flying machine breaks down, gravity takes over. You’re going to land either in the middle of traffic (who likely won’t see you coming), or on someone’s home or yard… or dog… or child.”
Would you buy — and fly — a Lilium VTOL if you had the money?