Forward-looking: Taxi by air is coming soon to a location near you, Chicago being first out. United Airlines and Archer Aviation plan to operate short routes that can save you 50 minutes compared to going by car. This is set to be the first commercial route operated by an electric aircraft.
United Airlines, in collaboration with Archer Aviation, have unveiled their plan to start an air taxi service in Chicago in 2025. The aircraft made by Archer is named Midnight and is designed to fly up to 100 miles, but is optimized for short flights of roughly 20 miles, according to the company.
Midnight is designed to carry four passengers and one pilot along with their luggage and has an expected charge time of 12 minutes in-between flights. The first route to open will be between Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Vertiport Chicago, a trip that is expected to take about 10 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes by car according to Google Maps. United says pricing will be competitive with ground-based ride share.
The benefit of electric aircraft is reduced emissions, but it also comes with significant noise reduction, sitting at 45 dBA, which according to Archer is almost 1,000 times quieter than a helicopter, while also having a similar cruise speed of about 150 miles per hour.
This type of aircraft is called an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) and it comes equipped with 6 batteries using an 800 volt architecture, each supporting two motors at a time.
With Chicago's population of 2.7 million and O'Hare Airport serving over 68 million passengers in 2022 – coming in at the fourth busiest airport in the world – the interest for this type of service is expected to be high.
With only two years to go before the service launches, many are expecting this to spark a boom of electric powered aircraft similar to what we've seen with electric cars within the decade. It remains to be seen how efficiency and operating cost will compare to petroleum powered aircraft.