Roland Berger says air taxi market is ‘set to soar’
By eVTOL | November 11, 2020
Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 1 seconds.
By 2050, a global fleet of 160,000 eVTOL air taxis will be generating annual revenues of nearly US$90 billion, consultancy firm Roland Berger predicts in a new report.
The projection contained in “The high-flying industry: Urban Air Mobility takes off” is even rosier than the one Roland Berger made two years ago, when it estimated there would be 100,000 air taxis flying by 2050.
Why the increase? Roland Berger now projects that many more cities will implement urban air mobility (UAM) operations than initially expected. The firm says it has also updated its criteria and relevance for inter-city services, improved its methodology, and added new parameters which influence UAM implementation.
According to its latest report, the passenger UAM market is “set to soar. The number of UAM projects continues to rise, barriers to progress — such as regulation and public acceptance — are increasingly being overcome, and the coronavirus crisis shows no sign of causing serious delays.”
With respect to the “short-term effects” of COVID-19, the report elaborates: “Overall delays are only expected to run to about six months and are more likely to delay UAM launches than jeopardize the implementation of UAM as a whole.”
The report echoes conventional wisdom in describing an incremental development of UAM services, with initial, small-scale services targeted mostly at executive users who can afford higher prices. “As scale and experience increase, we expect a transition to a premium public transportation model, where UAM services become more and more like today’s taxi services,” the report states.
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Roland Berger predicts that the passenger UAM market will grow to the $90 billion figure from around $1 billion in 2030. By 2050, the firm expects airport shuttle and inter-city services to provide 90% of revenues, with city taxis making up the rest.
“Inter-city services will have a lower number of overall flights, but will cover longer distances, generating more revenue per flight and with higher utilization,” the report explains. “Medium-distance airport shuttle services will be appealing to the business market, enabling them to charge a premium compared to city taxis.”
Noting that global commercial helicopter sales were 657 units in 2019, Roland Berger suggests that its projections for eVTOL air taxis “can be related to an up-scaled helicopter production” — still far below the volumes of the automotive industry, which had global passenger car sales of around 65 million last year.
The report highlights that the UAM market has been expanding into “an ecosystem of integrated building blocks” as commercial passenger-carrying operations move closer to becoming a reality. It identifies five such major building blocks, including eVTOL vehicles; maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services; flight operations; physical infrastructure; and digital infrastructure.
“Most industry players are positioning themselves as system providers, with an overarching business model archetype that spans the five building blocks,” Roland Berger observes, giving as an example Joby Aviation, which is not only building eVTOL aircraft but has also registered with the Federal Aviation Administration as an operator.
According to the report, this approach allows players to understand the entirety of the emerging ecosystem and react quickly to developments, as well as to compensate for supply chains that are not yet fully established. This model is likely to persist into the future, “albeit in a less vertically integrated form than today,” Roland Berger suggests.