Tom Enders, chief executive officer of Airbus from 2012 until 2019, accepted an invitation to join the board of directors for German electric air taxi startup Lilium — a major vote of confidence in the company’s ambitious plans.
Enders penned a blog post on Lilium’s website announcing his intent to join the board, praising not just the company’s entrepreneurial spirit but also its technical and design prowess.
“The young founding engineers had the courage to come up with a technical concept that is tailored for their business model and purposefully different to traditional VTOL solutions,” Enders wrote. “Although it is technically more challenging, they are using electric turbo fans with acoustic liners and have solved the associated engineering challenges.”
Lilium has faced outside criticism regarding the feasibility of its design, which has 36 electric ducted fans built into the wing and canard. Some engineers believe its high disc-loading will consume too much power during vertical take-offs and landings to enable the 186-mile (300-kilometer) range the company aims to reach.
Lilium CEO Daniel Weigand recently told German magazine Frankfurter Allgemeine the company intends to lengthen and increase the weight of its five-seat air taxi to improve the passenger experience; two sources with direct knowledge of Lilium’s development work tell eVTOL.com the company is also pursuing a seven-seat version of the design.
Enders expressed faith in the design approach and Lilium’s understanding of how to make the air taxi business — which traditionally suffers from low load factors — more profitable and affordable.
“Perhaps the thing that has impressed me most about Lilium was that they started with a strong business case and focused from the start on intercity shuttle flights, which allow for higher passenger load factors,” Enders wrote. “I believe with this Lilium is solving the problem of notoriously low load-factors in on-demand air-taxi businesses of the past. It will also help to get ticket prices down and truly democratize electric flight, following Lilium’s mission.”