Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand confirmed plans to take the company public in an interview with German magazine Frankfurter Allgemeine, along with pushing forward the company’s certification timeline for its five-seat electric jet and hints at larger electric aircraft development projects in the works.
The Munich-based startup’s novel aircraft design, employing 36 electric ducted fans along its main wing and canard, has been criticized by engineers outside the company for a disc-loading ratio — a measure of the aircraft’s power consumption in hover — that is too high to allow for reasonable reserves or range.
Lilium is now working on its production prototype, the company told eVTOL.com in December, which — according to a Google translation of the Frankfurter Allgemeine interview with Wiegand — will look “similar to the demonstrator . . . but will be a little longer and have a higher payload,” though still accommodating one pilot and four passengers.
Furthermore, Weigand told Frankfurter Allgemeine the company’s goal is to “get the first series aircraft approved by the end of 2023.” In November, announcing the company’s planned vertiport development in Orlando, Florida, Lilium COO Remo Geber targeted certification by some point in 2024 after previous public statements aiming for 2025; now, Weigand appears to have publicly shifted the company’s timeline forward even further.
Lilium is working toward receiving Design Organization Approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), first achieved for an eVTOL company by Volocopter in December 2019, which would expedite the certification process for their aircraft.
In addition to Lilium’s plans for the Florida region, centered around the planned vertiport in Lake Nona, Orlando, Wiegand said talks are being held with 50 locations worldwide, including 10 in Germany, focusing on a hub-network approach where the hub location can serve hundreds of passengers per hour using six to eight gates.
Lilium plans to manufacture several hundred jets per year once the aircraft is certified and is already looking toward scaling up its technology for 15- and 60-seat electric aircraft that may or may not take off vertically, like the smaller jet. The company declined to answer questions posed by eVTOL.com regarding its future aircraft design plans and this interview.
To reach series production in the three-year timeframe, Wiegand told Frankfurter Allgemeine Lilium will need to raise close to $400 million, roughly what the company has raised to date, and continue expanding the company to 700 employees within the next year. But to scale beyond a five-seat aircraft, he will need access to public markets.
“The capital market can make a lot more money available, for example, if we launch a second aircraft program,” Wiegand told the German magazine, though he mentioned the possibility of an initial public offering instead of a reverse listing via special purpose acquisition company.
Many other startups in the industry, aware of the capital requirements associated with their plans, told eVTOL.com in December they were closely monitoring rumors that Lilium is pursuing public markets, some concerned that a poor performance could poison the well for eVTOL companies seeking capital in the future.
As Wiegand details even more ambitious plans to the German press — and accelerates his expected certification timeline for the Lilium Jet, which has yet to fly since a fire destroyed the first demonstrator in February — the company appears to be raising expectations ahead of a public listing, but it may risk setting the bar beyond what is realistically achievable, regardless of capital availability.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add additional information about Lilium’s historical public statements regarding certification, and to improve the accuracy of translated statements from the German interview referenced.