Flying taxis are set to shuttle passengers from Heathrow to cities in the South of England for the price of an Uber cab in just four years’ time, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Passengers arriving at Heathrow could take an electric air ‘taxi’ to London’s Canary Wharf in just 13 minutes for about £50 per passenger. A Uber journey costs £46.
An air taxi from Heathrow to Cambridge would take 28 minutes and cost £58, compared with £102 for a 90-minute taxi or £52 for a two-hour train journey.
The ambitious project is being masterminded by Bristol firm Vertical Aerospace in partnership with the Virgin Atlantic airline and Heathrow.
Vertical Aerospace boss Stephen Fitzpatrick, who previously founded energy supplier Ovo, said he plans to revolutionise Britain’s transport network. The company estimates that air taxis produce lower carbon emissions per mile than petrol cars or electric vehicles.
In what Mr Fitzpatrick described as a ‘major milestone’ for electric flights, Vertical Aerospace has agreed a partnership with Heathrow to help launch the first air taxi flights by 2025.
Heathrow is exploring how Vertical’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft could fit into its airlines’ flight schedules and help ease congestion on surrounding roads. Vertical’s four-seater VA-X4 aircraft will shuttle passengers to cities including Oxford, Bristol and Southampton.
The air taxis will be operated by Virgin Atlantic, which has ordered up to 150 of the battery-powered planes and is in talks to launch a Virgin-branded network of electric aircraft from Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick. Other airlines are expected to follow as they look to cut carbon emissions.
As well as airport shuttles, Vertical plans to launch regional air routes opening up new connections across the UK, including Belfast to Glasgow, Liverpool to Hull and Aberdeen to Edinburgh.
Its planes can travel more than 100 miles before recharging their lithium-ion batteries and have top speeds of 200mph, making flights about three times quicker than car journeys and five times faster than the train.
Company documents show the expected fare for a 50-minute trip from Liverpool to Hull is £112 and a 41-minute flight from Cardiff to Plymouth would cost £89.
The electric planes will produce about 5kg of carbon per passenger on a 90-mile flight, compared with 11kg for an electric vehicle and 38kg for petrol cars.
The air taxis will take off and land at ‘vertiports’ which could be based at airports, rural airfields, motorway service stations or on the rooftops of train stations and office buildings. Inner-city sites could be used for short-distance ‘air taxi’ services, hailed by using an app.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: ‘This new generation aircraft bridges the gap between communities separated by inconvenient public transport or impassable terrain. Because, unlike helicopters, they are safe, clean and quiet, they will deliver huge benefits for densely populated cities too – more convenience and less congestion.’