Honda is officially joining the ranks of eVTOL developers, confirming plans for a hybrid-electric aircraft for longer-range, inter-city transportation.
The automaker unveiled its eVTOL concept on Sept. 30, along with details of an avatar robot and new space technologies. Images of the aircraft show a lift-plus-cruise design with eight lifting propellers on parallel booms and two ducted propellers in the rear.
In a press release, Honda said the aircraft will feature a gas turbine hybrid power unit to enable transportation between cities, not just within them. The company contends that the only “realistic” use case for all-electric air taxis today is intra-city transportation, due to current battery limitations.
As reported by TechCrunch, Honda’s market research suggests that the largest demand for eVTOL transportation will be for inter-city flights of up to 250 miles (400 kilometers), which will be difficult to achieve with lithium-ion battery technology anytime soon. Although Beta believes its fully electric Alia eVTOL will be able to hit that range, most air taxi developers are aiming well short of it.
For example, Joby recently conducted an eVTOL flight of more than 150 miles (240 km), but the company expects that its average urban air mobility mission will be just 26 miles (42 km) — and it forecasts robust demand for such short hops.
Honda said its eVTOL aircraft will incorporate technologies and capabilities that the company has developed across a range of industries. For example, it will draw on its experience with hybrid cars and electric vehicles for the aircraft’s generator/motor and battery, and from its autonomous driving technologies for sensors, controllers, and actuators.
Meanwhile, Honda’s experience developing the HondaJet and its HF120 turbofan engine will inform its approach to turbine technology, aerodynamics, lightweight structure manufacturing, and aircraft certification.
According to TechCrunch, the company is working toward flight tests of a hybrid demonstration model in 2025, after which it will make a decision on commercialization. Simultaneously, the company aims to establish a “mobility ecosystem” that is “coordinated and integrated with mobility on the ground,” with consideration for elements including infrastructure, customer reservations, and air traffic control.