Flying cars economically favor battery electric over fuel cell and internal combustion engine

Flying cars, essentially vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOL), are an emerging, disruptive technology that is expected to reshape future transportation. VTOLs can be powered by battery electric, fuel cell, or internal combustion engine, which point to entirely different needs for industry expertise, research & development, supply chain, and infrastructure supports. A pre-analysis of the propulsion technology competition is crucial to avoid potential wrong directions of research, investment, and policy making efforts. In this study, the authors comprehensively examined the cost competitiveness of the three propulsion technologies. Here the authors show that battery electric has already become the lowest-cost option for below-200-km VTOL applications, covering intra-city and short-range inter-city travels. This cost advantage can be robustly strengthened in the long term under various technology development scenarios. Battery energy density improvement is the key to reducing cost. In particular, a 600 Wh/kg battery energy density provides battery electric with all-range cost advantage, and promises high return in business. Fuel cell and internal combustion engine, under certain technology development scenarios, can obtain cost advantage in long-range applications, but face intense competition from ground transportation such as high-speed rail. The findings suggest a battery-electric-prioritized VTOL development strategy, and the necessity of developing VTOL-customized high-energy-density batteries.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Academy of Sciences.
  • Authors:
    • Liu, Ming
    • Hao, Han
    • Lin, Zhenhong
    • He, Xin
    • Qian, Yuping
    • Sun, Xin
    • Geng, Jingxuan
    • Liu, Zongwei
    • Zhao, Fuquan
  • Publication Date: 2023


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; References;
  • Pagination: pgad019
  • Serial:
  • Publication flags:

    Open Access (libre)

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01878689
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 6 2023 11:46AM