EAMaven produces market assessment of 20 potential UK routes for AAM aircraft operations

UK Research and Inno­va­tion (UKRI) engaged EAMaven to analyse 20 poten­tial routes across the UK to assess the via­bil­i­ty of advanced air mobil­i­ty (AAM) in the UK, and chose 14 elec­tric con­ven­tion­al take-off and land­ing (eCTOL) and six eVTOL routes.

These routes met a range of cri­te­ria includ­ing the Government’s Lev­el­ling Up and North­ern Pow­er­house agen­da, and the Union Con­nec­tiv­i­ty Review. Using a range of data sources and a bespoke AAM demand mod­el, EAMaven deter­mined the num­ber of pas­sen­gers who would switch from tra­di­tion­al road and rail modes of trav­el to AAM ser­vices.

The com­pa­ny found that in many cas­es, it had the­o­ret­i­cal load fac­tors above 100%, sug­gest­ing an induced demand effect which is down to the new ser­vice being offered and the sig­nif­i­cant time sav­ings achieved.

It iden­ti­fied 390 poten­tial routes with one air­port hav­ing 28 routes which include both eVTOL and eCTOL routes, and esti­mat­ed that over five mil­lion pas­sen­gers per week could trav­el on these ser­vices where a large pro­por­tion of them would come from peo­ple trav­el­ling by car, help­ing to decar­bonise region­al trav­el in the UK.

The num­ber of air­craft required will be 224 in total, made up of 160 four-pas­sen­ger eVTOL and 64 19-pas­sen­ger eCTOL air­craft. Annu­al rev­enue gen­er­a­tion is esti­mat­ed at £704 mil­lion per year, equat­ing to just over £3.1 mil­lion rev­enue per air­craft. Aver­age air­craft util­i­sa­tion is 1,854 hours per year, while eVTOL are flown 1,965 hours per year and eCTOL 1,581 hours per year on aver­age.

Through increased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, £2.6 mil­lion per week was put back into the econ­o­my, or £124 mil­lion annu­al­ly, using Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) Web­TAG bench­marks. Time sav­ings amount­ed to 11 per­son years per week, or 528 per­son years annu­al­ly. Based on attract­ing trav­ellers away from car jour­neys, EAMaven cal­cu­lat­ed that car­bon emis­sions from cars would be reduced by 9,000 tonnes annu­al­ly.

The Eco­nom­ics of Hydro­car­bon Avi­a­tion v Elec­tric Avi­a­tion
As engine tech­nol­o­gy evolved, the effi­cien­cy and com­plex­i­ty of hydro­car­bon-pow­ered air­craft increased, requir­ing air­craft to become larg­er, car­ry­ing more pas­sen­gers over longer dis­tances. Con­se­quent­ly, large hub-and-spoke air­port sys­tems were a nat­ur­al eco­nom­ic out­come.

Con­verse­ly, elec­tric air­craft, due to their low­er cap­i­tal, oper­at­ing, and main­te­nance cost, will be able to oper­ate out of small­er air­fields at low­er costs, which may also be clos­er to the passenger’s true ori­gins and des­ti­na­tions.

An analy­sis of region­al jet and tur­bo­prop air­craft oper­a­tions in Europe in 2017 shows a trend where­by region­al air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers are devel­op­ing air­craft with increased range and seat capac­i­ty, where­as air­lines’ peak aver­age sec­tor length was only 370 km account­ing for 47% of the fre­quen­cies offered.

In this case, air­craft with a range of up to 4,500 km are being oper­at­ed on sec­tors of up to 1,000 km, or only 11% of their range capa­bil­i­ty. Elec­tric air­craft can oper­ate in this ‘sweet spot’, which are those routes below 500 km in dis­tance, thus address­ing 5% of avi­a­tion car­bon emis­sions.

The study demon­strates the fre­quen­cies acces­si­ble on the select­ed ori­gin-and-des­ti­na­tion (OD) pairs as an indi­ca­tion of how elec­tric air­craft can con­tribute to region­al con­nec­tiv­i­ty, while reduc­ing the car­bon impact of trav­el.

The study also iden­ti­fies the poten­tial rev­enue gen­er­at­ed by flights, as well as the eco­nom­ic stim­u­la­tion that is attrib­uted to increased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of trav­ellers spend­ing less time in a car or on a train. The fol­low­ing table sets out the OD pairs, with dis­tance, driving/public trans­port time, air­craft type and trav­el time for AAM modes of trans­port.

Esti­ma­tion of Demand
The fol­low­ing table sets out the demand assess­ment between the 20 OD pairs which was tak­en through an iter­a­tive process to smooth peak demand and account for the effect of sched­ul­ing on demand.

Across the 20 routes, a total of 528,000 trips were under­tak­en dur­ing the study week, before being assessed using a bespoke approach to demand mod­el­ling. The method con­sid­ers a shift­ing of some demand dur­ing the peak peri­ods to account for a sched­ul­ing effect where­by, as pas­sen­gers achieve more usable hours dur­ing their day, more are will­ing to shift their depar­ture time.

In many cas­es, a load fac­tor of more than 100% is cal­cu­lat­ed — which is the lost cus­tom due to the sched­ul­ing exer­cise, in that there is more demand than sup­ply. Load fac­tors of greater than 100% could be inferred to be an ‘induced demand’ caused by pro­vid­ing this new ser­vice.

For this analy­sis, the esti­mat­ed car­bon emis­sions for elec­tric avi­a­tion flights were derived using pub­licly avail­able infor­ma­tion from elec­tric air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers, and an esti­ma­tion of the UK ener­gy mix in 2024.

This infor­ma­tion is used to cal­cu­late the esti­mat­ed car­bon emis­sions asso­ci­at­ed with the poten­tial flights on the 20 routes assessed. Using DfT esti­mates of aver­age pas­sen­gers per car and aver­age car­bon emis­sions per kilo­me­tre, the esti­mat­ed car­bon emis­sions from road trips were cal­cu­lat­ed.

Time Sav­ings and Increased Eco­nom­ic Effi­cien­cy
Across the routes, when assess­ing the time saved, the aver­age for a sin­gle jour­ney was about 2.4 hours — or 4.8 hours on a return flight. For an aver­age work­ing day of eight hours, this rep­re­sents 60% of a work­ing day. With ref­er­ence to trav­el on pub­lic modes of trans­port in one week, a total of 67,000 hours could be saved, equiv­a­lent to 8.3 years.

For road users, the time sav­ings is 21,000 hours or 2.4 years on a week­ly basis. Com­bin­ing the two modes means that, on a week­ly basis, the time sav­ings is equiv­a­lent to 10.7 years. On an annu­al basis, the poten­tial time sav­ings equates to approx­i­mate­ly 528 years.

Using DfT Web­TAG data, EAMaven esti­mat­ed that the annu­al eco­nom­ic val­ue of the time sav­ings is approx­i­mate­ly £124 mil­lion for both modes of trans­port. In the case of road users, the val­ue used is high­er as dri­vers are less pro­duc­tive than on rail.

It has been clear that there is not only a place for AAM ser­vices, but in many areas a real need. Each part of the research has shown a case for the intro­duc­tion of these air ser­vices across a vari­ety of UK regions to help sup­port, and com­ple­ment, exist­ing trans­port infra­struc­ture, with almost no excep­tions.

This assess­ment focused pre­dom­i­nant­ly on the eco­nom­ic scope for the intro­duc­tion of this new tech­nol­o­gy, as this is often con­sid­ered the bedrock on which its via­bil­i­ty will be judged. While some more soci­etal fac­tors such as emis­sions and time sav­ing are includ­ed, there is fur­ther oppor­tu­ni­ty to assess the wider social ben­e­fits of an AAM net­work by con­sid­er­ing the ben­e­fits of greater con­nec­tiv­i­ty and con­ve­nience in both rur­al and remote set­tings, and heav­i­ly-pop­u­lat­ed city-cen­tre loca­tions.

It is also impor­tant to remem­ber there is still scope for sub­stan­tial­ly improv­ing the results from this research fur­ther. Were a ratio­nal and effi­cien­cy-led oper­a­tor to run an AAM net­work that is adap­tive to the spe­cif­ic needs, demand and costs of des­ig­nat­ed routes to max­imise their effec­tive­ness, the case becomes ever more com­pelling for sup­port­ing UK trans­port routes with AAM air­craft.

eVTOL Insights Editorial

This article was compiled by the eVTOL Insights editorial team.

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