Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce are backing a £2.8 billion plan to launch 1,000 zero-emissions ‘flying cars’ in 2024.
Bristol firm Vertical Aerospace is building a fleet of ‘near-silent’ electrically powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles with commercial operations planned to start in less than half a decade.
The air taxi aims to reduce the travel time of short-haul trips by over two-thirds, cutting the journey from Cambridge to London Heathrow Airport – 56 miles – to approximately 22 minutes.
Virgin Atlantic will purchase up to 150 of the flying cars, called VA-X4, to deliver an air taxi service to some of the UK’s busiest cities.
“With innovation and sustainability leadership firmly in our DNA, we are excited to be partnering with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions air travel in the UK,” said Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic.
The VA-X4 will have zero carbon emissions and will be 100 times less noisy than a helicopter. It’s expected to have a range of over 100 miles. With speeds over 200mph, the VA-X4 aims to open up urban air mobility to a whole range of passengers and transform how Brits choose to travel.
Each air taxi is designed to carry one pilot and up to four passengers, who will travel in a luxury interior, complete with comfortable padded seats, headrests, seatbelts and plenty of legroom.
According to Vertical Aerospace, trips in the aircraft will cost travellers between £5 to £10 per mile travelled – roughly midway between the costs of using a helicopter or a private car to complete the journey – which could be booked using an app.
The flying car project should result in a total fleet of 1,000 aircraft built by Vertical Aerospace.
Commercial operations are planned for 2024 once certified under European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Vertical Aerospace is led by a Northern Irish multi-millionaire and Formula 1 enthusiast, who is also expected to work with American Airlines to fly passengers in the US.