Lilium, the German start-up developing an electric flying taxi, has hired renowned automotive designer Frank Stephenson to work on its first vehicle.
Stephenson, responsible for the design of cars such as the McLaren P1, Fiat 500 and Ferrari F430, has been tasked with mixing car and plane design in the flying taxi. The interior will be designed to resemble that of a car.
The flying taxi completed its first unmanned flight in April 2017. It is due to take to the skies with its first manned flight next year before becoming a fully fledged ride hailing service that uses a smartphone app (like Uber) from 2025.
The vehicle is being developed to use 36 electric jet engines that are attached to its wings and enable vertical take-off, negating the need for a runway. The taxi is claimed to be capable of speeds of up to 186mph or, if flown economically, a range of 186 miles to one charge.
Stephenson told Reuters: “What’s so incredibly exciting about this is we’re not talking about modifying a car to take to the skies, and we are not talking about modifying a helicopter to work in a better way.”
Lilium intends for its flying taxi to offer ride hailers a faster and more direct mode of transport, with commuters expected to be among the main benefiters. Air restrictions in most countries don’t always allow aircraft to travel ‘as the crow flies’, so adjustments to legislation might be required for the taxi to maximise its effectiveness.
Lilium is working to be among the very first to commercialise its electric flying taxi. Uber, the leading ride hailing taxi company, intends to put its own flying taxis into the air from 2020. It expects the charge customers around $1.32 per mile (about 95p).
Lilium is backed by Tencent, a Chinese internet giant that invested $90 million (about £64.5m) into the German start-up last year.