Future mobility ecosystems-regional hubs, harbour ports and electric aircraft, it's all already here
We don't have to reinvent the wheel here within new, smart and future mobility.
Let's start with applying a simple process of identifying the core challenge, looking at the possibilities and then finding the solutions. While it sounds simple, let's not complicate the task at hand here. The solutions are maybe closer than what we think.
Do we start with new vehicles? Or is it to perhaps impose a 15km radius city, perhaps the eVTOL air taxis, or cable carts, more EVs, and bikes and bike lanes, electric scooters, electric ferries.... perhaps all of these.... there will be many options.
Let's consider what we have to work with for the near future (12-36 months) before we get too carried away with 2040+ flying cars.
What we know is that 75% of the worlds large cities are built on ports and harbours, so can we perhaps better unlock transportation here to look at the mobility solutions? City port to port, city harbour to harbour... direct, efficient, decongesting highways, eliminating massive costs of building new roads and rail... why not?
Is there ever a case for the old school seaplane that has been used for the past 80 years, to unlock the future of mobility then let's look at the harbours and ports. And perhaps other eSTOL, hydroplanes, amphibious planes, that can take off from a regional hub and land in city/ urban harbour ports. Now you can't get too much closer than door to door than this.
Especially considering the infrastructure costs associated with eVTOL, and the challenge of who will pay. Well right before us in broad daylight we already have untapped possibilities.
In Norway where we at Elire MG are located in the capital Oslo, for example, we have the three largest cities (and most others) built along the coast - Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger. Norway also has 48 airports, many decommissioned that with the right new mobility ecosystem established and explored, could gear these as new mobility hubs and a perfect network. Along with the harbours and ports we could in fact unlock a better way of moving around the country, while de-urbanising.
To look at what is next in the short term for future mobility, Elire MG is planning to deliver several programs in Norway for 2021/22 with strategic partners that will, for example, research economic impacts, safety considerations and test open autonomous digital ecosystems from several regional/ urban locations. Lets in short apply this to a case for the role of electric aviation.
In order to build an advanced ecosystem for future mobility, one must establish what does a new mobility ecosystem look like in each country, with different conditions, different cultures, economies and considerations. How to build these and test it for practical use.
Dean Donovan, aerospace contributor at Forbes.com recently writes a fitting piece regarding just this from his perspective more in the USA where congestion and mobility have been changed forever. I had to quote and share:
'As electric aviation rises, our society will build on a long history of urban development to break the historical suburban paradigm and create a new kind of clustered regional development that reduces housing costs while increasing regional social cohesion.'
Work could change materially with workplaces looking more like meeting hubs for people that gather from a larger region than a traditional office. These sorts of changes could make work relationships and social relationships more regional further driving aviation demand. As the flywheel starts to spin, people will start to spread out. Developers will build new style offices meant to permit in-person meetings close to tertiary airports making longer distance commutes easier.
With the large startup regional air mobility industrial players including Volocopter, Lilium spending hundreds of millions of euros on their vehicles, are now racing to create their own advanced ecosystem, realising their vehicles with their advanced technologies fail to fit into the current ecosystem, nor into cities, communities and societies. The signs are clear - without the ecosystem, and testing in this type of ecosystem, the vehicles fail to provide the solution and therefore fail to be an economic option.
Dean also shares more insight into what he foresees happening as a result;
'Fixed-wing commuter service will create a new kind of regional carrier, with the scale to drive increased operating efficiency. These airlines will build operations around tertiary airports 50-150 miles from the major urban centres with high frequencies and upgraded terminal facilities. In a kind of reverse hubbing scenario, they will build scale in each regional tertiary airport by running routes to multiple airports in the urban centre. They will fly smaller aircraft with high operational tempo and asset utilization and focus on low-cost operations because they will focus on serving people spending their own money to get to work.
Fixed-wing aviation and should increasingly reflect the impressive safety record of commercial aviation. So, for the air commuter, the chances of delay and unpredictability should decline and safety should improve — a significant advantage of flying vs. driving.
Once deployed at scale, this type of commuting model will lead to regional clustering of smaller cities connected by air to the urban centres and greater regional integration rather than the more contiguous development based on highway systems that we see today.