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Lilium places initial USD2.5 million price tag on its seven-seater eVTOL jet

By Chris Stonor

German electric aviation start-up Lilium hopes to sell its seven-seat Lilium Jet for an initial unit cost of USD2.5 million, according to documents filed as part of its U.S stock market listing, reports

Lilium is carrying out a SPAC by merging with a U.S-listed ‘blank cheque’ company called Qell Corporation as it seeks additional financial resources to bring the jet to market. The cost estimate is contained in a registration document filed on May 5th with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The documents states, “At launch we expect jet unit costs of approximately USD2.5 million, which we anticipate will decrease as we scale up our manufacturing operations.”

It forecasts that a single jet could generate a profit of USD10 million over its eight-year lifetime, based on annual revenue of USD5 million and a 25 percent margin.

However, in order to achieve that return, each vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft needs to cover “approximately 1,500 miles per day, or approximately 20 to 25 flights, with on average 4.5 out of 6 passenger seats filled, generating approximately USD15,000 of revenue per day.”

While the company’s initial focus is on a seven-seater accommodating six passengers and one pilot, another and larger version is already under consideration.

The document continues, “Lilium intends to also create a 16-seater version of the Lilium Jet based on the same architecture and technology, which could drive these unit economics even higher,” while noting there is no guarantee such an aircraft may be developed.

Rather than intra-city transport, Lilium intends to focus on regional air mobility. Its eVTOL is projected to have a range of 135m (250km) at service entry in 2024. The Jet is powered by 36 tilting ducted electric fans, in theory allowing a vertical take-off and then a transition to wing-borne forward flight.

Lilium has remained coy on the battery technology it intends to use, but the registration document reveals that the Jet will use Li-Ion cells “based on a silicon-dominant anode combined with conventional NMC (Nickel, Manganese and Cobalt) cathodes and electrolytes”.

The document goes on, “We believe this combination offers the best compromise of energy and power density at a low state of charge.” Testing has shown a “nominal” energy density of 330 watt-hours per kg, which it says supports its range projection.

The cells, an “evolution” of those used for automotive applications, should allow 800 charge/discharge cycles, measured until 80 percent capacity. On that basis, each aircraft’s batteries will be replaced two to three times per year “given the projected number of flight hours during the operation of an aircraft within passenger shuttle networks”. Charging should take a maximum of 30min, or 15min to 80 percent charge.

No details of the battery provider has been revealed, but the document describes it as a “leading battery technology supplier”; Lilium has secured “exclusive rights for the eVTOL market for this chemistry.”

Company CTO, Alastair McIntosh, has previously indicated a maximum take-off weight of 3,175kg (7,000lb) of which around 30 percent is the batteries.

Figures contained in the registration document show that for the year ended 31 December 2020, the company made a net loss of EUR188 million (USD230 million), in the process spending EUR90 million on R&D, up from EUR38 million the previous year.

The document continues, “We expect our research and development costs to increase for the foreseeable future as we continue to invest in research and development activities to achieve our operational and commercial goals.” Lilium estimates that profitability on an EBITDA basis will come in 2025, assuming the jet enters service in 2024.

Turnover is projected to rise from USD246 million in that first year of commercial operation to USD1.3 billion in 2025, USD3.3 billion in 2026 and USD5.8 billion in 2027.EBITDA starts at a loss of USD180 million in 2024, turning to a profit of USD70 million in 2025, and rising to USD708 million, then USD1.4 billion in subsequent years. Annual production of the Lilium Jet will also increase from 90 units, to 325, to 600, ending at 950 in 2027.

While the aircraft, in its initial phase, is to be flown by a pilot holding a commercial licence, Lilium is hopeful this will change as regulations adapt.

The document says, “A future, more simplified pilot licence, which takes into consideration the high degree of aircraft automation and the full range of its capabilities, will ideally be developed and utilised to train air crew to operate the Lilium Jet and other eVTOL designs.”

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