Rolls-Royce unveils hybrid flying taxi at Farnborough

The Rolls-Royce EVTOL plane will seat four or five people, with a flying range of 500 miles (805 kilometers) and a top speed of 200 miles per hour. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2018

Rolls-Royce unveils hybrid flying taxi at Farnborough

  • Rolls-Royce hopes to manufacture a prototype version of its electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle within the next 18 months
  • Rolls-Royce is also researching an all-electric product but that is not as advanced as the EVTOL offering

FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom: British engine maker Rolls-Royce revealed plans this week to develop a hybrid electric vehicle, dubbed the “flying taxi,” which takes off and lands vertically and could be airborne within five years.
The London-listed aerospace giant, which is based in Derby in central England, showed off the plans at the Farnborough Airshow for the first time, as other players also rush into the market segment.
Rolls said it hoped to manufacture a prototype version of its electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) vehicle within the next 18 months, and could potentially take to the skies in the early 2020s.
The Rolls-Royce EVTOL plane will seat four or five people, with a flying range of 500 miles (805 kilometers) and a top speed of 200 miles per hour.
“In this market, you will see something like this flying within three to five years, and we will demonstrate the system in two years,” said Rob Watson, head of Rolls-Royce’s electrical team.
“At the end of next year we will be flight ready,” he said at the group’s Farnborough chalet.
The hybrid vehicle, which has so far cost single-digit millions of pounds to develop, will use a traditional gas turbine engine with an electrical system wrapped around it.
Rolls-Royce is also researching an all-electric product but that is not as advanced as the EVTOL offering.
“There is an emerging market for all-electric planes but we believe that you need a level of requirement that an all-electric system cannot really provide today,” Watson said.
“So, all-electric is the way to hop around within a city, but if you want to travel 200 or 300 miles, if you want to run London to Paris, then you are going to want to run something that will give you that range.
“So we think you will see hybrid propulsion systems starting to make this market.”
Rolls is not alone in the hybrid “flying taxi” marketplace.
Other companies researching the sector include US taxi-hailing company Uber, the Google-backed Kitty Hawk project, Lilium Aviation in Germany, Safran in France, and Honeywell in the United States.
The aerospace sector’s push into electric propulsion has drawn comparisons with the automotive industry, where electric cars are gaining ground in terms of popularity and performance.
“Think of it like the car industry. Historically everybody had an internal combustion engine. over time you add more electric capability to it and then you start to see electric cars,” added Watson.
“In the same way, we are introducing a hybrid propulsion system into this market because we think it gives you that range and capability.”
David Stewart, aviation and aerospace adviser and partner at Oliver Wyman, said that the aerospace sector was facing pressure to become more environmentally friendly.
“I think that electrical propulsion is a potential disruptor to the way things are powered,” said Stewart, who will speak at Farnborough on Tuesday.
“We are quite a long way for electrical power to be a replacement for kerosene, but never say never.”
He cautioned that Rolls-Royce’s flying taxi concept was in reality a development platform to test the new technology.
The real market opportunity will likely be a scaled-up version of 10-15 seats that can serve a wider variety of applications, according to Stewart.
Watson added: “Over time you’ve got more electrical capability for bigger and bigger aircraft — and that’s really what we are thinking about today.
“We are learning today about the technology that we will need tomorrow.”


Japan’s Uniqlo pulls ad after South Korean fury

Updated 21 October 2019

Japan’s Uniqlo pulls ad after South Korean fury

  • South Korean and Japanese relationship is deeply strained by the legacy of Tokyo’s 20th-century expansionism
  • Seoul and Tokyo are currently locked in a bitter trade and diplomatic row stemming from historical disputes
SEOUL: Japanese retail giant Uniqlo has pulled a commercial featuring a 98-year-old US fashion figure from South Korean screens, it said Monday after it was accused of whitewashing colonial history.
South Korea and Japan are both US allies, democracies and market economies faced with an overbearing China and nuclear-armed North Korea, but their relationship is deeply strained by the legacy of Tokyo’s 20th-century expansionism.
The latest example is an advert for Uniqlo fleeces showing elderly fashion celebrity Iris Apfel chatting with designer Kheris Rogers, 85 years her junior.
The last line has the white-haired Apfel, asked how she used to dress as a teenager, innocuously responding: “Oh my God. I can’t remember that far back.”
But Uniqlo’s Korean arm subtitled its version of the ad slightly differently, reading: “I can’t remember things that happened more than 80 years ago.”
That would put the moment as 1939, toward the end of Japan’s brutal colonial rule over the Korean peninsula, where the period is still bitterly resented, and some South Koreans reacted furiously.
“A nation that forgets history has no future. We can’t forget what happened 80 years ago that Uniqlo made fun of,” commented one Internet user on Naver, the country’s largest portal.
The phrase “Uniqlo, comfort women,” in reference to women forced to become sex slaves to Japanese troops during the Second World War, was among the most searched terms on Naver at the weekend, and demonstrators protested outside Uniqlo shops on Monday.
Seoul and Tokyo are currently locked in a bitter trade and diplomatic row stemming from historical disputes, and South Korean consumers have mounted boycotts of Japanese products.
Uniqlo — which has 186 stores in South Korea — has itself been one of the highest-profile targets, while Japanese carmakers’ sales dropped nearly 60 percent year-on-year in September.
The company denied the allegations in a statement, saying the text was altered to highlight the age gap between the individuals and show that its fleeces were for people “across generations.”
“The ad had no intention whatsoever to imply anything” about colonial rule, a Uniqlo representative said on Monday, adding the firm had withdrawn the ad in an effort at damage control.
Analysts said the controversy demonstrated the politicization of the neighbors’ complex history.
The reaction was excessive, said Kim Sung-han, a former foreign affairs vice minister who teaches at Korea University, involving a “jump in logic” that “assumes everything Uniqlo does is political as a Japanese company.”
“I don’t see how her remark could be linked to the comfort women issue,” he added. “This is overly sensitive.”