Electric air taxis alone won’t solve urban traffic problems, but could evolve into a relevant niche market by 2035, according to a new study from Porsche Consulting.
The study is a complement to Porsche’s first report on the future of vertical mobility, released in 2018. Focusing on intracity eVTOL air taxi services, it projects that “vertical mobility will evolve in incremental steps rather than take off exponentially.”
In Porsche’s base case, the global fleet in 2035 will consist of about 15,000 high-performance and reliable air taxis, representing the second or third generation of hardware development. Airframe manufacturers will sell an average of 1,000 eVTOL aircraft per year, more than double the volume of today’s largest helicopter manufacturer. The aircraft will operate from 1,000 to 2,500 vertiports in more than 30 cities.
According to Federico Magno, executive director of mobility at Porsche Consulting, air taxis in this scenario will have a transportation market share of less than 0.3 percent in 2035, implying that “mobility of the future will . . . need even more ideas and strategies.”
Nevertheless, eVTOL aircraft could “become a valuable addition to the range of mobility options, especially as a means of transport for special occasions, urgent appointments, and emergencies,” Porsche says.
Although the market for vertical mobility will reach around US$32 billion by 2035, Porsche projects, this trajectory will require investment of at least $20 billion, with no positive return on investment in sight before 2030.
“Vertical mobility can develop into a lucrative niche area,” stated Gregor Grandl, a senior partner at Porsche Consulting and author of the study, in a press release. “But if air taxis are to become a reality for everyone, courageous pioneers with persistence, deep pockets, and a sense of responsibility will be needed. Safety and social acceptance will also play huge roles.”
The study describes social acceptance as the “decisive bottleneck” for the air taxi industry. Without it, the technology will remain “limited to an electric version of a helicopter for the rich and therefore a market that is economically and socially irrelevant, meaning only some customers will use it sometimes,” the authors write.
For air taxis to evolve into a service that everybody uses sometimes, like ground taxis today, users and lawmakers will need to perceive clear personal and public benefits from vertical mobility, the study says.
Porsche says that in its 2035 base case, “the key questions of safety, noise emissions, accessibility, price, and sustainability will have been addressed, and consumers need to have realized the social and individual benefits that come with having a new, reliable service at their disposal.”