SCENARIOS FOR UAM DEVELOPMENT
Wassaf Akhtar Mohammed | 27/09/2021
The emergence and growth of the Air Taxi market is expected to be driven by several factors like UTM infrastructure capabilities and development, ground infrastructure capabilities and development, aircraft noise/community noise tolerance, regulatory environment for certification, continued investment, and demand for taxi services. Below are some of the scenarios that needs to be catered to, to nurture the growth of UAM market, some of them maybe hindrance to the growth:
A. Technology and Infrastructure Scenario
Technology Improvements: Improvements in battery technology and reduction of vehicle cost due to manufacturing learning and experience.
• Li-ion battery capacity specific cost is expected to fall to $100/kWh price range by 2025 at a $10/kWh annual reduction (Source: Nykvist)
• On average, vehicle cost reduces by ~15% on doubling the production (source: NASA). The production doubles every five years
B. High Network Efficiency
Network efficiency parameters like load factor, utilization and dead-end trips were among the most significant parameters that influences the operating cost. The following improvements need to be considered in these factors:
• Utilization: ~7 hours/day (from ~4 hours/day) may be possible due to supercharging, higher system capacity, demand etc.
• Load Factor: ~80% (from ~65%) similar to commercial aviation
• Deadend trips: ~20% (from ~37.5%)
C. Autonomous eVTOL
Most of the vehicles being developed are expected to have the capability to be fully autonomous from day one. Given the pilot shortages facing the aviation industry and the scale of UAM operations anticipated, autonomy may play a key role to fully capture the realized demand. For this scenario we assumed the following:
• Pilot not required, and therefore all the seats were made available to passengers
• An extra ground staff was required to do safety briefings, loading and unloading of passengers
D. Infrastructure Improvements
This scenario assumed enhancement to the current air traffic system (e.g., following the development of a UTM system), which allowed in-part an increase of vertiport’s operations capacity. Increase in number of vertiports was coupled with increase in capacity. This number doubles vertiports and operational capacity every five years to model new demand.
E. New importance of travel time
Continuous advancement in Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality, large screens, new interiors in ground vehicles and other teleconferencing technologies may enhance the productivity of the human driver/passenger while in transit. Increased productivity may result in decrease in value of travel time, thereby affecting demand of Urban Air Taxis.
F. Competition with other modes
Autonomous cars, high speed rails, and many new or improved existing modes of transportation may pose a potential challenge to the adoption / demand of urban air taxis. Under this scenario, it was examined that the emergence of fully autonomous vehicles only where Self-Driving Cars survey in 2014 showed strong willingness among the American consumers to buy autonomous cars.
Regular telecommuting grew 115% in the past decade, nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce. Current telecommuting population of 3.9 million avoided 530 million trips or 7.8 vehicle miles annually. We considered a scenario where telecommuting continues to increase at a rate of ~10% every year to scope the available demand.
H. Congestion and Latent Demand
eVTOLs can induce new mobility patterns including de-urbanization (i.e., people moving out of the city due to faster transportation options available). Finally, mega cities can get more congested over time. However, in some scenarios (more pooling, better public transportation, etc.), cities can also de-congest.