eVTOL Addresses Congestion in Cities
Driven by rapid urbanization, mega cities – defined as having 10+ million inhabitants are growing. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2030 9% of the global population will live in megacities which will be responsible for 15% of the world’s GDP ( www.weforum.org).
eVTOL vehicles offer the potential to reduce congestion by enabling commuters to take to the skies and use a third dimension in inter and intra-city travel.
eVTOL vehicles can help address congestion and impact on public infrastructure through:
According to the General Aviation Manufacturing Association, there were 819 total rotorcraft units delivered in 2019. With the low volume of production, the cost to build and maintain traditional rotorcraft remains high. What’s more, mechanical drive systems are expensive to maintain. eVTOL offers simpler, more efficient energy utilization with less maintenance cost to operate. Moreover, the suitability for eVTOL vehicles, being much quieter to operate, requiring less infrastructure for hubs and simpler to operate means that the technology can develop beyond what’s currently possible with current rotorcraft vehicles. Therefore, eVTOL vehicles may reach economies of scale not possible with current VTOL vehicles with reduced operational costs.
eVTOL Address Reduction in Emissions
The aerospace industry has been actively implementing light-weighting solutions to increase fuel efficiency since its inception. More recent trends in the auto industry have led to a renaissance of electric-powered vehicles. The eVTOL industry transcends the aero and auto industries because it enables engineers to think differently about how we commute, where we live, and how we distribute goods. eVTOL is a paradigm shift that enables us to design solutions without the limitations of existing infrastructure that work better for society and the environment.
Traditional aerospace vehicles have 20 to 30 year lives. This means vehicles put into service today will have a carbon footprint long after other carbon-emitting non-aerospace vehicle platforms have been removed from service. eVTOL programs provide an important means to shape the way traditional aerospace platforms look at electrification. They provide near-term tangible opportunities for providers of battery and hydrogen power. The advancements made in eVTOL might be scaled into innovations for the broader aerospace community.
Advancements in e-mobility have led to an automotive renaissance over the past decade. Range, efficiency, and performance can all but outperform traditional consumption performance. The eVTOL industry is primed to take advantage of the progress in auto and translate into success in the skies.
In the commercial aerospace industry, the light-weighting and mechanical benefits of composite technology are widely accepted. This has been demonstrated by their steady growth in composite content utilized in the manufacture of aircraft. Given the ratio of passenger and energy payload to maximize take-off and landing weights of eVTOL platforms, the need for light-weight solutions is of even greater importance for eVTOL design. Within the composite family, thermoplastic composites have been edging out thermosets in recent history primarily because of the processability and automated rapid manufacturing technologies. The advantage that TCPs have to offer is that the existing manufacturing infrastructure will provide parts in the short-term and scale to high production volumes at maturity. This reduces certification and scale-up risk for the eVTOL industry while supporting the potential for exponential growth. That is once these vehicles become qualified for flight, the rapid cycle times can be leveraged into high-production rates without pausing for manufacturing infrastructure to be built out.
One of the main limitations of electric flying vehicles is the power to weight ratio. Electric propulsion needs to have energy stored reliably, at the present, batteries are the most realistic form of energy storage available, but they are heavy. Herein lies a paradox, the farther you need to travel, the more batteries and weight you have. This parasitic relationship makes air travel via electric propulsion an engineering challenge.
Balancing performance with overall weight is a key challenge for eVTOL vehicles. For example, they currently rely on battery technology for power, but this power unit can weigh up to 500 kg per aircraft. All-electric propulsion has unique challenges regarding power and range. The heavier the vehicle, the more power is consumed, so light-weighting is a critical parameter, along with consistent battery performance. TxV leverages hybrid overmoulding technology which essentially combines the strength of continuous fiber-reinforced composites with the design flexibility of injection molding.
One of the benefits of this approach is that it enables designers to think differently about part design - complex features, at one time restricted to machined-from-metal parts, can now be designed with and manufactured out of light-weight and high-strength composite parts. This is a fundamental shift in how engineers can design to meet performance and cost requirements for their applications. Rather than think about how an individual part must fit within a subassembly, engineers are enabled to think about the functional requirements of the entire system without historical material limitations. Joining techniques and the design freedom provided by injection overmolding allows for integral structures. One could imagine a future filled with multi-functional and connected designs, where thermoplastic composite parts satisfy dual purposes. Structural batteries or other distributed systems come to mind.
Computer-aided design speeds up the development and reduces testing and certification costs for aerospace components. These analyses and simulation tools along with material datasets can be leveraged in the design of eVTOL vehicles to accelerate the development and optimize the performance and manufacturability of the vehicles. Again, eVTOL finds itself in the right place at the right time and can benefit from the decades of work paved by the traditional aerospace industry and TxV can offer support beyond delivering parts and become a partner for the optimized design, maximizing manufacturability with performance and providing a path to reduced testing to achieve certification.
These new material and processing capabilities bring innovative design freedom for complex parts that weren’t previously possible. The challenge is in developing the material expertise, tools, and manufacturing capabilities to effectively bring a composite part to market. For engineers that are seeking a partner, TXV Aerospace can provide a total solution to support each step, from concept development through to commercialization.