Future Flying Cars: The Next Phase of Electrification logo menu-toggler menu-toggler
Monday - March 6, 2023

Future Flying Cars: The Next Phase of Electrification

Future flying cars are officially here to stay as more OEMs announce new BEV models and their commitment to carbon neutrality. EV range is improving, and economies of scale are starting to be realized. Now that electric cars are taking off, startups and OEMs are looking towards the next stage of electrified transportation: flying cars or EVTOL vehicles.

Recent news has covered the growing number of partnerships between EVTOL startups and automotive OEMs. These alliances are necessary if the industry is to be successful. While EVTOL startups have the advantage of rapid prototyping and testing they lack the necessary expertise of designing for manufacturability and scale that automakers have established over the last century. Automotive OEMs have also developed deep supply chain networks to support the evolving technology requirements. By contrast, EVTOL startups have more flexibility to innovate. Through partnering, both parties gain access to new technology and resources needed to drive the industry forward.

With all the new flying car announcements (anyone see the ASKA prototype at CES?), one may think we are a stone’s throw away of taking our first EVTOL ride. In reality, regulations are going to be the biggest hurdle for new companies hoping to gain market share in this space.

Piloted Versus Autonomous EVTOLs

Airplane pilots need to go through flight education and rigorous training in order to obtain their license. If you want to become a commercial pilot, you need to dedicate a significant amount of time to complete the required flight hours (250+), additional training and certifications. Much more intense than obtaining your driver’s license!

In order to operate an EVTOL, will the FAA require this same training? In order to accelerate the development and adoption of EVTOL, fully autonomous piloting may be essential. If an EVTOL driver only needs to input the destination and press a button to “go”, it would allow more people to benefit from short point-to-point air travel.

Designing Passenger-centric Cockpits

Have you ever peeked into an airplane cockpit while boarding a flight? There are a dizzying number of buttons, switches and gauges that enable pilots to safely transport thousands of passengers each day. If EVTOLs are operating autonomously, will they even need these controls? In general, people are familiar with vehicle cockpits even as they become more advanced. Today, vehicle screens are frequently used as an extension of the driver’s smartphone with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto pre-installed on all new models. EVTOL engineers can take a cue from automotive cockpit designs to make users more comfortable during operation.

USB-C connectors enable inflight screens to easily sync with passengers’ smartphones to deliver personalized content. Similar to high-tech vehicles, displays will need to be robust in order to withstand vibrations and wide temperature ranges. LCD displays equipped with backlights capable of localized dimming offer a bright, high contrast solution for EVTOL infotainment.

Passenger comfort is top of mind for automotive OEMs – today’s cars are able to regulate temperature for individual passengers offering greater flexibility. Smart actuators can be integrated into advanced HVAC systems to deliver the desired temperature and airflow to each passenger. In addition to an enhanced passenger experience, this can help increase efficiency and extend range.

Scaling Up Using Proven Automotive Manufacturing Processes

The Automotive industry has a long history of quality manufacturing, dedicated supply chains and high volume production. EVTOL startups are partnering with OEMs in order to have access to their established knowledge and resources. EV manufacturers are increasingly investing in lightweight materials, efficient thermal management and aerodynamic designs to boost range.

MinebeaMitsumi offers a unique advantage to this new market – we are a trusted supplier to both the automotive and aerospace industries. NMB Technologies can deliver precision, automotive-grade components such as EV resolvers, connectors, antennas and backlights to the new EVTOL industry for non-flight critical applications while our sister company, MinebeaMitsumi Aerospace manufactures custom airframe, control systems and gearboxes and more.

Jayme Meyers Jayme Meyers
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