While it’s hard to know whether “flying cars” will ever become a commercial reality, they could help solve a major climate problem. Aviation, which makes up about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, will be one of the hardest parts of the economy to decarbonize. Lilium, a German startup that successfully tested its small all-electric VTOL, which stands for “vertical takeoff and landing” vehicle, could have a solution— at least for short-distance flights.
Many companies have claimed to have successfully flown their version of the flying car, but what makes Lilium stand out is that they promise a far longer range than most of its competitors. While many companies say their VTOLs will travel 60 miles on a single charge, Lilium says (but has yet to prove) that it can eke out 185 miles. If Lilium is telling the truth, it would be huge.
Scientists have yet to invent a cheap renewable fuel as dense with energy as the jet fuel burned by massive airliners, and although Lilium’s battery-powered taxis can’t serve as a substitute for long-haul air travel, they could eventually replace the short hops made by commuters and business travelers—of which there a lot more of than you might expect. Lilium claims that by the middle of the next decade, reserving a seat on one will be as easy as hailing an Uber.