eVTOL operator profitability: an elusive dream?

Subscription Required

By Judson Rollins

Sept. 25, 2023, © Leeham News: As the hype grows around electric-powered short-haul air mobility, questions linger around the industry’s ability to be profitable without government subsidy.

LNA’s Bjorn Fehrm has written extensively on the cost hurdles facing eVTOL operators. His analysis predicted operating costs of approximately $2.14 per seat-mile, significantly higher than startup Lilium's 2021 estimate of $1.75. But even the latter is a high bar to clear, as this article will show.

Source: Lilium.

Other startups have been pitching business plans with even lower unit costs. But, as aviation consultant Kevin Michaels pointed out last year, such plans often rely on impossibly high assumptions of load factors and/or utilization.

For instance, Lilium’s cost projections are predicated on 10 hours of average daily utilization. By comparison, US DOT data from 2019 show turboprop utilization averages 7.3 hours, small regional jets average 6.2 hours, and large regional jets average 9.4 hours.

  • Helicopter services demonstrate the difficulty of making urban air mobility profitable.
  • Comparing eVTOL costs to potential revenue highlights a lack of markets.
  • Market forces will allocate scarce pilots to where they generate the most revenue.

To read the rest of the article Login or Subscribe today.