Please check out leehamnews.com, a news, trend spotting and analysis website specialising in the aviation industry. The company was founded by Scott Hamilton more than 25 years ago. Its star journalist today is Bjorn Fehrm, a former aeronautical engineer and fighter pilot from the Swedish Air Force who flew the Draken fighter.

Fehrm contributes a regular flow of articles as well as writing a blog called Bjorn’s Corner, where he looks at and covers both the aeronautical industry and more importantly, the economics that lie behind it.

Bjorn Fehrm

Fehrm has a growing readership and in recent months written a series of blogs on both electric aeroplanes and eVTOLs. (see link below)

https://leehamnews.com/category/bjorns-corner/

Recently, the journalist has been focusing on the eVTOL industry. Last week Fehrm published an intriguing piece entitled, ‘Sustainable Air Transport. Part 44. eVTOL Operating Costs’.

He writes, “We have analysed the operational costs for airliners and feeder aircraft for almost a decade with our aircraft performance model. An eVTOL is not that different; the cost factors are the same, but their content differs.”

It goes on, “We used the model to analyse the energy, crew, maintenance, airport, underway, and capital costs. The total cost for a typical city-to-airport feeder mission of 30 minutes, including procedures, would be just over USD200.”

Below is the cost breakdown:

This is relevant, surely, given today’s breaking news from Archer Aviation about its first U.S planned eVTOL route between the United Airline’s hub at Newark Liberty International Airport and Downtown Manhattan Heliport in New York City.

While we must take Fehrm’s ‘aircraft performance model’ breakdown at face value, he continues, “We see that the energy costs represent 2 percent of the cost mass, whereas the maintenance of the airframe with its systems, motors, and rotors is 9 percent.

“The problem areas are the battery renewal costs at 32 percent, the cost of using the heliport, the airport, and the in-between airspace at 25 percent, and the cost of the pilot at 23 percent.” Adding, “The conclusion is the cost eVTOL OEMs love to discuss – the energy cost – is non-relevant to the operations costs of air taxis.”

Agreed his figures are for a 30 minute flight and not the ten minute journey proposed by Archer. Trivia Question: How many miles will an eVTOL travel at an average speed of 150 mph over 30 minutes?

Meanwhile, if Joby and Wisk, for example, are proposing USD3 per passenger per mile and given a maximum of four passengers can travel per flight, the obvious question is? How will eVTOL companies make a profit, particularly in the early days?

Back in May evtolinsights.com published a feature entitled: Do Flying Taxi Projected Flight Costs Add Up Or Is It All “Pie in the Sky?” Matt Field, Joby’s CFO, commented, “Over time, the cost of a trip per passenger is expected to be on par with an UberX, although we’d expect prices to be closer to Uber Black pricing in the early years of service.”

Field then estimates an operational cost of 86 cents per seat per mile.

Cost Breakdown

: Pilot 22 cents
: Maintenance (including labour) 19 cents
: Vertiport support/landing fees 11 cents
: Battery and charging 13 cents
: Aircraft and insurance 9 cents
: Sundries 12 cents

How does this fair with Fehrm’s analysis?

It seems eVTOL profits may be thin on the ground during those early pioneering days. Last month, evtolinsights.com interviewed Chad Cashin, the new CCO of AutoFlight, who is another that cites the Uber comparison. He remarked, “Initially, the passenger cost will be similar to Uber Black. Once autonomy hits, this will be the major game changer. Overheads come down along with passenger prices and everything changes.”

Fehrm’s analysis that crew costs make up 23 percent of that USD200 will disappear once autonomy arrives. Yet, companies like Vertical Aerospace talk of employing a pilot onboard its VX4 for at least the first 10 years of operations.

Next Fehrm focuses on the eVTOL batteries. He writes, “The battery costs deserve special attention. We need more than five batteries per year, and you can’t base the renewal cost on the costs in the car industry. It produces some five billion energy-oriented cells this year. End of this decade, the eVTOL industry will demand less than 0.1 percent of the car industry quantity of its special, power-optimised cells.

“Therefore, we have based the battery costs on what the manufacturers have told us will be the renewal cost for a 144kWh eVTOL battery at the end of the decade.”

It seems the eVTOL industry is hoping that batteries will significantly improve and assist in bringing down their overheads too.

This article is not meant to be an in-depth analysis, but more to prompt discussion. Certainly, profits will be thin on the ground in those early days, “Uber Black or no Uber Black.”

(News Source: https://leehamnews.com/)

(Top image: IEEE Spectrum)