In July 2019, Tesla CEO Elon Musk discussed the potential of electric airplanes. According to Musk, these planes could be viable in about five years.
MarketsandMarkets™ View Point:
According to predictions by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, electric aircraft could take flight within the next five years. In a recent interview, Musk said, “If Tesla starts building its own ultra-dense batteries for deployment in jets, then the Tesla Jet would come into the picture in no time.”
According to Musk, the development of an aircraft battery with a power density of 400 Wh/kg will rapidly boost the electric aircraft market. Solid-state batteries are an innovative solution for the aviation industry and are likely to be adopted for the operation of electric aircraft.
In terms of electric aircraft, Musk’s vision is very optimistic. To further this vision, Tesla acquired Maxwell Technologies—an energy storage firm working on next-generation technologies such as ultracapacitors and dry electrodes—in May 2019. Maxwell Technologies can help achieve Tesla’s battery density goals through its dry battery electrode, which does not use solvents, eliminates controversial cobalt materials, and reduces cost by 20 percent while increasing production capacity up to 16 times. These cells also offer double the battery life compared to traditional batteries. Most importantly, the firm has demonstrated densities of 300 Wh/kg as well as identified a path to 500 Wh/kg batteries. The acquisition of Maxwell Technologies could augment Elon Musk’s focus on enhanced battery power for electric planes as well as help realize his plans for a long-haul Tesla electric airplane.
Several startups and major aircraft OEMs have begun investing in electric aircraft technologies. Rolls-Royce is fast-tracking its shift to environmentally sustainable aviation transportation with a plan to acquire Siemens’ electric and hybrid-electric aerospace propulsion eAircraft business. The company expects the deal to be completed by the end of this year. Similarly, Pipistrel—the electric airplane company—has announced a partnership with heavyweight aviation player Honeywell to design an electric vertical take-off & landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Major investments have taken place in the aviation industry for the development of electric aircraft. A notable obstacle blocking the growth of the electric aircraft market is the lacking advancement of battery technology. To overcome this challenge, significant investments are needed at every stage of the supply chain within the electric aircraft industry—particularly in the R&D, manufacturing, system integration, and assembly stages. Li-ion batteries have driven innovation in the market by offering a higher cranking voltage, no gassing or oxidization, and less toxicity. Advanced aircraft tend to consume more power, thus needing batteries that have high power storage capacities and improved safety features.
IMPACT ON THE URBAN AIR MOBILITY MARKET
Recent technological developments in urban air mobility have set the stage for a promising future, where cities will rely on electric platforms to create the next generation of transportation systems. Globally, cities are facing challenges in transportation due to increasing road traffic. Rising air pollution in major cities also has adverse effects on the urban population, hence compelling governments to take strict action in order to tackle these challenges. The transport sector, which consumes a significant amount of energy, is responsible for releasing vast amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere. The enormous levels of greenhouse gas emission from this sector adversely affect the climate. Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, along with more electric aircraft, can offer a viable solution for these problems.
As per market projections by MarketsandMarkets™, the UAM and eVTOL markets are projected to reach USD 15,198 million and USD 411 million respectively by 2030, at a CAGR of 11% and 20% respectively. The electric aircraft segment is projected to reach USD 121 million by 2023, at a CAGR of 4% during the forecast period.
FIGURE 1 EVTOL AIRCRAFT MARKET TO GROW AT HIGHEST CAGR OF 20% BY 2030
Tesla, being a frontrunner in electrical technology and having tremendous brand value, has the capacity to tap into the concentrated share of this growing market in the near future through direct involvement in the end-to-end value chain of the electric aircraft manufacturing industry.