Elon Musk hails Lilium’s 5-seater electric air taxis

A futuristic, all-electric jet made by German company Lilium has been praised by Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk.

The vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) jet, which made a very brief maiden flight earlier this month, hit the news again last week when Lilium released a video of the 5-seater “air taxi” in flight (see video at bottom of this article).

With a sleek and simple design that utilises 36 all-electric engines that allow it to take off and land without the need for a runway, aircraft such as these are under development by a number of companies around the world and may one day become an air-based alternative in cities to land-based taxis.

While there is some concern about how realistic they are as an answer to issues of road-based traffic and congestion, Lilium has attracted the attention of electric transport entrepreneur Musk, who commented via social media channel Twitter that he thinks the design is “good”.

However at the same time, the Tesla CEO admitted that while he has been thinking about a VTOL jet himself (and said as much in an interview with Recode Decode’s Kara Swisher last year, it is a “hard problem”.

Lilium however may beg to differ, according to a note by the company published last week (and mind you, Lilium is not talking supersonic):

With a top speed of 300 km/h and a range of 300km, the Lilium Jet is capable of completing much longer journeys than the majority of its competitors.

This is, in part, thanks to the fixed wing design of the aircraft. While drone-based aircraft consume much of their energy keeping an aircraft in the air, the Lilium Jet can rely on the lift generated by the fixed wing to do this, meaning it will require less than ten percent of its maximum 2000 horsepower during cruise flight.

This efficiency, which is comparable to the energy usage of an electric car over the same distance, means the aircraft would not just be capable of connecting suburbs to city centers and airports to main train stations, but would also deliver affordable high-speed connections across entire regions.

Up until now, the Lilium jet could only carry 2 passengers – the move to a 5-seater is a big thing.

Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand said in a statement to the press, “Moving from two to five seats was always our ambition as it enables us to open up the skies to many more travellers.

“Whether its friends or families flying together or business travelers ride-sharing into the city, having five seats delivers an economy of scale you just can’t achieve with two.”

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