On The Radar
Deloitte buys into the widespread high expectations for the advanced air mobility (AAM) sector, but—as one might expect from a company grounded in accountancy—wants to crunch numbers with dollar signs attached to assess its potential. In its new study, AAM: Disrupting the Future of Mobility, the consulting group seeking to assess its prospects from a consumer point of view and considers how eVTOL aircraft will be able to compete with existing modes of transportation.
The opening section of the 12-page report breaks down how a 25-mile journey can be cut from 74 minutes in a car to 29 minutes. This includes five-minute first- and last-mile segments at either end of a 10-minute eVTOL flight, with seven minutes allowed for boarding the aircraft and two more minutes to deplane and transfer to the final leg of ground transportation.
Perhaps more interestingly from a consumer perspective at a time of soaring inflation, the Deloitte researchers also looked at the cost of that 25-mile trip. They concluded that in an eVTOL aircraft it would come to $3 per seat mile, compared with $2 in a standard taxi and $3.80 for a “premium” taxi.
Regarding the cost to the environment, Deloitte sees the choice to switch to an electric aircraft as the proverbial "no-brainer.” Zero emissions from an AAM ride are contrasted starkly with the 11.1 kg of carbon dioxide emitted over 25 miles in a road vehicle powered by gasoline, or 9.8 kg if it burns diesel.
For Deloitte, the price point will prove critical. “AAM operators can compete with existing urban transport but must improve the economics to capture the market, as the demand will likely be directly proportional to the service price,” the report maintains. “A lower price per seat over time would likely create more demand, resulting in a high load factor because consumer willingness to pay for faster transportation is expected to be one of the primary factors driving AAM adoption. As the demand increases, higher production volumes [in terms of overall ride capacity] could lead to economies of scale.”
In addressing what Deloitte feels must be the ultimate objective for the new sector—to become a mass transit transportation option rather than a niche player—the report examines comparable pricing for both intra-urban (Manhattan to New York JKF airport) and Boston to New York City regional services. It views eVTOLs as far more competitive in the urban air mobility stakes than over longer distances, although, surprisingly, for the latter, it appears not to have considered the possible impact of fixed-wing eSTOL aircraft.
The Deloitte study was prepared by the company's global and U.S. aerospace defense leader, John Coykendall, with colleagues Matt Metcalfe, Aijaz Hussain, and Tarun Dronamraju. It builds on earlier papers by the company, including one in 2019 looking at the anticipated consumer response to AAM and another in 2021 focused on projected revenues from the sector.