eVTOLs — “Big in Japan?”

The average speed on roads in the Greater Tokyo area is less than 10mph. Could eVTOLs such as those from Japanese company Skydrive quickly and efficiently transport passengers from the outskirts of the city to the railway stations that cater for long-distance travel? (Credit: Skydrive)

aerosociety.com has published a fascinating feature entitled ‘eVTOLs — Set to be Big in Japan?’ Journalist Stephen Bridgewater, attended the recent International Council of Aeronautical Societies Emerging Technologies Forum in Kyoto, Japan, where the theme was ‘Future Air Mobility Barriers and Enablers.’

Such forums and discussion groups AKA congresses, occur approximately every two years attracting professional societies from 27 nations. Associate members include Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Lockheed Martin. Some might suggest it is a Bilderberg Group equivalent for the aviation industry.

The Congress was set up in 1956 when American industrialist and philanthropist, Harry Guggenheim, donated a large sum of money to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences to support a program of international co-operation in the field. He expressed a wish that his funding should be used “with a pioneering intent” and that “we should be looking ahead 100 years, not just on a short term basis.”

The Congress focused on Japan this year, eyeing it as an excellent potential example of the future of Urban Air Mobility (UAM). 

L‑R: Lillium CTO Alastair McIntosh with ICAS President Dimitri Mavris, Chair Programme Committee Chris Atkin and JAXA Associate Senior Researcher Adriana Andreeva-Mori PhD at the ICAS ETF Forum. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

Bridgewater writes, “If ever there was a country tailor-made for UAM, it must surely be Japan. An estimated 92 percent of the total population lives in cities and with more than 38 million residents, the Greater Tokyo area is the biggest metropolitan area in the world.”

He continues, “With such urban sprawl and high population density, it will probably be of no surprise to hear that traffic congestion is a major problem in Japan. In fact, the average speed on general roads (excusing expressways) in the Greater Tokyo are is just 9.75mph! Elsewhere in Japan, other urban areas, such as Osaka and Nagoya, have similarly low average speeds with a national average of just 22.5mph.”

The journalist goes on to say the discussions were “lively”, where Karolin Schweiger from the German DLA explained that research suggests by 2035, around 23,000 UAM/eVTOLS could be serving a global market worth some EUR60 billion. Those from the industry also speaking included Tom Perot, Joby Aviation’s Product Lead and Alastair Macintosh, CTO at Lilium. 

The feature points out that a major reason for holding this year’s Congress in Japan is because of the Osaka Expo taking place in 2025, where eVTOLs will play a major role. 

Tens of millions of visitors will descend on the Osaka Expo in 2025, where Japan aims to showcase electric air taxis. (Credit: Expo 2025 Osaka)

After mentioning the efficiency of Japan’s public transport using the Bullet train as a good example, Bridgewater concludes, “If the nation can achieve similar levels of traffic management and safety in the air, the eVTOL revolution could very much be Big in Japan.”

This feature is well worth a read.


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