German start-up Lilium has given a first glimpse of the Pioneer Edition interior that will equip the first 50 units of its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) jet.
The unveiling – which took place at the EBACE show on 23 May – comes as the company looks to accelerate the development of the Lilium Jet having recently secured its near-term funding requirements.
Configured in a four-seat club layout, the “high-end” Pioneer cabin is aimed at wealthy individuals prepared to pay the $10 million price tag for the variant – around $3 million more than the baseline six-seat shuttle model of the eVTOL.
Head of design Alberto Caruso says Pioneer customers will be able to select from a wide range of options to tailor the interior and exterior to their exact requirements. The ceiling dome of the cabin in particular is “their personal canvas”, he adds.
Caruso says the four-seat layout and the lightweight materials employed – the seats come in at just 7kg (15lb) apiece - mean there is ample space for baggage; Lilium’s performance calculations are based on a 150kg allocation for each passenger and their luggage.
Engagement with the firm’s engineering team “since day one” has enabled the incorporation of features like the large panoramic windows, he adds. “It wasn’t easy but we wanted to combine function with beauty,” he says.
Additional features could also be added if there is sufficient demand, such as active or passive noise-reduction systems.
To date, Lilium has signed agreements for 25 Pioneer Edition jets – 20 from UK-based eVolare and five from Swiss operator Air-Dynamic – and chief executive Klaus Roewe is confident that more sales will come.
“We are in very active talks with a couple of other customers,” he says. “I believe all 50 will be gone before the end of the year.”
Separate talks with fractional operator NetJets for the four-seat Premium version of the jet are also ongoing, says Roewe, as the two sides work to convert a memorandum of understanding for up to 150 aircraft into a firm order.
“[NetJets] are in active discussions to firm it up; they are super-engaged with us,” he adds.
Roewe, who was only appointed as chief executive in August last year, says Lilium has made “tremendous progress” against three key measures: developing the company, its technology, and of the aircraft as a whole.
Tests of an unmanned version of the Lilium Jet – known as Phoenix 2 – have been proceeding at a site in southern Spain, with that aircraft “in the next couple of weeks” to be joined by a second prototype.
Critical transition flights – where the aircraft switches between fan- to wing-borne flight – were achieved last year and the manouevre has now become so commonplace “that we don’t even recognise it anymore”, says Roewe.
Windtunnel tests of the propulsion system, focused on the performance of the compressor and stator, are also more than 90% complete: “It is all looking good or better than needed,” he adds.
“On the technology side the key stumbling blocks have been removed.”
The design of the Lilium Jet has is also largely frozen and the critical design review process should complete this summer.
Recent tweaks to the configuration include the addition of split-tip winglets, replacing the previous vertical winglet design, which should see a performance boost of around 1-2%, estimates Roewe.
A fourth audit by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency in the coming weeks should result in the award of design organisation approval in the autumn. Service entry is expected in 2025 or 2026.
Roewe is also confident that Lilium is now on a firmer financial footing following the recent $100 million cash injection from Aceville, an affiliate of existing investor Tencent Holdings. Aceville will provide another $75 million if the company can raise the same amount from other sources.
Although he acknowledges the stock market was “getting a bit nervous” prior to the capital raise – Lilium shares were at one point trading as low as $0.38, but have since recovered to $1.16 – he feels the issue was “more outside than inside the company”.
“I am super-confident we will get the [$150 million] balance,” says Roewe. The $250 million should be sufficient to achieve first flight of the production-conforming Lilium Jet in 2024, a milestone that will then unlock customer pre-delivery payments.
“[Financing] is not my worry of the day,” he adds. “It makes me really confident that it will not stand in the way of getting to first flight or achieving certification,” he adds.