Meet George Jetson: India to debut flying taxis 

wild ideas

Meet George Jetson: India to debut flying taxis 

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Zero-emissions, vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles (eVTOL) could be airborne by 2023.

In our new Wild Ideas column, the Climate & Capital Media team explores emerging climate change innovation and solutions. Our Wild Ideas are not meant to distract from the critically important job of ending fossil fuel addiction and transitioning to clean energy — that’s non-negotiable. This features ideas, big and small, that could become pieces of the climate solutions puzzle. Some of these ideas will pan out and become important, others will fail. We hope exploring them will get you thinking about what’s possible. This week … electric air taxis.

Imagine making your way to an appointment on the far side of your city when traffic is at its most hellish. But the taxi you step into on the street is electric (quiet, emissions-free) and — bonus! —  it lifts off vertically and flies you to your destination, dodging the traffic snarl on the ground. 

A company in India says it is on the verge of delivering an affordable battery-powered mini taxi that would ease traffic pain and the climate impact of urban transportation. 

Far-fetched? In some ways, perhaps, but feasible enough that some venture capitalists believe it merited a recent $5 million investment. The ePlane Company, based in Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore, says it will launch its passenger-carrying electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles (eVTOL) in 2024, and a cargo-carrying version as soon as 2023.

The flying car has long been the stuff of imagination. Consider the dystopian science fiction classic “Blade Runner” (1982) with its flying police patrol cars, or the utopian vision in the 1960s cartoon “The Jetsons,” featuring a futuristic family that scoots about their daily routine in their flying car. (Meet George Jetson! Jane, his wife!) And there are the magic versions: “Harry Potter”, “Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang”… But I digress.

In 2022, the technology for flying cars, including electric flying cars, is pretty advanced, with scores of companies developing vehicles — piloted and autonomous, for human transport or cargo — chasing the global urban air mobility market that is expected to be worth $12.4 billion by 2027. That includes a wide swath of ambitions –– from companies like Zipline, which got its start delivering medical supplies in Africa by unmanned drones, to aerospace behemoth Boeing, developing electric passenger prototypes with names like Odysseus, Centaur and Orion for on-demand urban and regional travel.

There are myriad challenges to this transportation revolution. Affordability is one barrier for most passenger models. Ground infrastructure requirements for many of the vehicles — think, helipads or dedicated landing stations — is one big issue. Uber has been testing electric sky taxis that would require a system of skyports where passengers would then connect to its ground vehicles for the final mile. Developing some way to regulate urban airspace and avoid mayhem is another looming issue.

A company in India says it is on the verge of delivering an affordable battery-powered mini taxi that would ease traffic pain and the climate impact of urban transportation. 

The ePlane Company claims to be building “the world’s most compact flying taxi” which does not require any ground infrastructure. It says its e200 –– a piloted 2-person flying taxi powered by Lithium batteries –– will be an affordable, on-demand, door-to-door eVTOL. The company says it is about the same length as a typical sedan and about twice as wide. 

The founders, an aerospace engineering professor and his student, say that the company has addressed a key engineering challenge, allowing their e200 to be compact.

“What makes the wing carry the weight is essentially the air going around it. So, if the plane is traveling at a slow pace, you need to have a very large wing,” said professor Satya Chakravarthy, co-founder and CTO, in an interview with The Times of India. “We have done some research and have a patent to put the rotors in such a way that we can actually go slow and still have very compact wings.” 

By producing a piloted vehicle, The ePlane Company dodges the issues that continue to surround autonomous vehicles. Despite being super smart, they still crash on occasion and raise other questions about liability. As an electric vehicle, it also avoids the issue of noise, which will likely surround combustion engine VTOLs.

The ePlane Company says the market is preparing for air taxis, citing efforts underway in the European Union, the U.S., South Korea and elsewhere to develop certification for VTOLs. 

Ultimately, the most formidable challenge to this mini taxi — and the urban air mobility revolution as a whole — is air traffic regulation, which is lagging well behind the technology. When that piece falls into place, The ePlane Company plans to be hitting the skies, trying to outrun the competition.

Written by

Kari Huus

Kari Huus is a writer and editor based in Seattle. She was a staff reporter for from 1996-2014, with stints covering international business, foreign policy, and national affairs. Earlier, she reported on China for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong, and Newsweek in Beijing. From 2015 to 2020, she was managing editor for the website Money Talks News.