German start-up Lilium Air Mobility plans to start production of the first type-conforming Lilium Jet in 2023 and achieve manned flight with the eVTOL vehicle in 2024. The company says it is making good progress on the path towards certification, with an important design milestone scheduled for next year, Lilium said in a business update to shareholders and investor’s call on September 28. The airframer targets production of 400 vehicles per year, its new CEO told Reuters. Lilium prepares for the production of the first of many Jets.
In preparation for production, Lilium had placed orders for subsystems for the first production aircraft. The company has contracts with Aciturri for the aerostructures, Aernnova for the wing flaps, Honeywell/Denso for the electric motors, Honeywell for the avionics, Diehl for the interior, while CustomCells is supplying new-technology batteries and Livent the lithium that is used inside the batteries.
The Lilium Jet is rather different compared to other eVTOL, most of which use rotors for vertical lift and horizontal flight. The Lilium has a fixed main wing at the back and two canards at the front that include thirty, much smaller electric motors or ducted electric vectored thrust that are positioned in a row. As the motors can tilt, they provide both vertical left and horizontal flight. The vehicle should have a physical range of 250 kilometers or a 175-kilometer operational range at full payload. The definitive version, which is called Pegasus, will enter full-scale wind tunnel test very soon.
Full transition at high speed
Lilium has been flight-testing five different demonstrators since 2017. In 2020, it lost one of the prototypes in a fire. The latest iteration is the unmanned Phoenix2, which has demonstrated full transition of the electric motors at increasingly higher speeds of up to 100 knots/190 kilometers per hour during tests in Spain. More tests are scheduled to explore the flying capabilities of the Phoenix2 and prepare for the full-production version. So far, the Jet has been flying as was predicted.
Tests indicate that the batteries will be able to do some 800 cycles and have an eighty percent capacity retention, which is in line with projections. Eight hundred is the minimum number of cycles that Lilium wants to offer on the production version but it expects to eke out a few more as battery technology evolves. Internal tests and performance management of the aircraft will have to demonstrate that the battery system is safe, for which Lilium has also sought support from external experts.
The Munich-based start-up is working with Europe’s EASA and the FAA in the US on the certification roadmap. The certification base is complete, but Lilium has to demonstrate about a quarter of the means of compliance phase and submit still two-thirds of the certification plans to EASA. At the same time, the regulators are reviewing if Lilium is ready for Design Organization Approval with the final audit scheduled in HY1 2023. This phase will demonstrate if the company is capable to develop and certify the production-standard vehicle, which is targeted for 2025.
Lilium says it has MoUs for 483 eVTOLs. (Lilium)
Lilium Urban Mobility says it has Memorandum of Understandings for 483 vehicles, including 113 for the premium shuttle version with a First Class-like interior. A limited edition version for private customers will be unveiled and offered for sale in the coming months, while charter services and fractional owners can make deposits at the end of 2023 for the six-seater version. MoUs have been placed by US operators NetJets (150) and Bristow (50), AAP Aviation (40), Globeair (12), ASL Group (6), and Helity (5) in Europe. Lilium’s biggest customer is set to become Azul in Brazil, which has an MoU for 220 vehicles. A few of these commercial announcements were done at the recent Farnborough Airshow. The airframer is working with potential customers to firm up orders.
Lilium will offer the final production version with a premium cabin (left), as a six-seater, and even as a freighter. (Lilium)
Total cash spend some €250 million this year
In a financial update, Lilium says its cash spend in Q2 was €63 million, which compares to €67 million in Q1 and €73 million in Q4 2021. Total cash spend for 2022 is projected to be around €250 million, lower than the €265 million that it anticipated in the Q1 shareholder letter. The company’s cash position was €229 million at the end of June, down from €31 million by the end of March. It secured a $75 million credit facility in June. Lilium hasn’t offered details on its operating results and net results.
“The advance of our development program through the detailed design and industrialization phase is expected to lead to increased supplier contracting activity from Q2 2022. We are working to offset the slight rise in related cash spending through active budgetary measures including headcount control,” the German company says.
Subject to formal approval from the shareholder’s meeting on October 27 but a formality, Lilium’s leadership is transitioning from co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand to Klaus Roewe, who has joined from Airbus. In his final role with the European airframer, Roewe was Head of the A320 program and Head of Services. Wiegand will stay on as Chief Engineer for Innovation & Future programs.
Roewe told Reuters today that Lilium is seeking public funding, which will help it prepare for full production of the eVTOLs. He said that Lilium is targeting a production capacity of 400 vehicles per year. The large numbers at which these vehicles will be produced will require some new thinking, Dassault Systemes’ David Ziegler told AirInsight in a recent interview.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.