Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 44. eVTOL operating expenses. | Tech Reddy


by Bjorn Fehrm.

November 4, 2022, ©. Leeham News: This is a summary of the article Part 44P, eVTOL operating costs. Discuss the operating costs of a typical eVTOL flying a feeder mission from a city center to an airport.

The dominant cost factors are not ones that eVTOL companies like to discuss, such as electricity bills.

Figure 1. The Vertical Aerospace VX4 in a first rendering with similar looks to the eVTOL we are discussing. Source: Aerospace Vertical.

The operational costs of the mission

We’ve analyzed operating costs for airliners and feeder aircraft for nearly a decade with our aircraft performance model. An eVTOL is not that different; the cost factors are the same, but their content is different.

We used the model to analyze energy, equipment, maintenance, airport, ongoing, and capital costs. The total cost for a typical 30-minute city-to-airport feeding mission, including procedures, would be just over $200.

The interesting part is what cost factors dominate. Figure 2 shows the cost distribution for the mission.

Figure 2. The distribution of operating costs for our eVTOL. Source: Leeham Co.

We see that the energy costs represent 2% of the mass of the cost and the maintenance of the aircraft with its systems, motors and rotors 9%. The problems are the costs of renewing the battery at 32%, the cost of using the heliport, the airport, and the airspace in-between at 25%, and the cost of the pilot at 23%.

The conclusion is the cost eVTOL OEMs love to discuss; the cost of energy is not relevant to the operating costs of eVTOL air taxis.

Battery costs deserve special attention. We need more than five batteries per year, and you cannot base the cost of renewal on the costs in the automotive industry. It produces about five billion energy-oriented cells this year. By the end of this decade, the eVTOL industry will require less than 0.1% of the automotive industry’s amount of its special airframes, optimized for power.

So we based the battery costs on what the manufacturers have told us will be the renewal cost for a 144kWh eVTOL battery at the end of the decade.


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