While automakers scramble for pieces of the much-sought-after EV and CAV pie, a similar trend that could stir up a storm are electric flying taxis. Academics at the University of Michigan, on Tuesday, said that vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOL) could offer a more sustainable and faster way to travel long distances.

Several firms who have taken up such projects are working on VTOL aircraft that can lift passengers above congestion, cruise at over 160kph and land in small spaces within crowded urban centres. Researchers believe that such flying taxis could slash greenhouse gas emission in half for three people on a 100km trip.

Shared mobility holds great significance in the future of the automotive landscape. Automakers have planned the initial application of autonomous vehicles in ride-hailing cars rather than personal vehicles. In the same breath, much of the savings for flying cars will come by assuming passengers will be more willing to share their space that they are in cars.

A typical flying taxi with one pilot and the three passengers could make a 100km in about 27 minutes.

“It was very surprising to see that VTOLs were competitive with regard to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in certain scenarios,” said Gregory Keoleian, from the university’s Center for Sustainable Systems, in a statement.

“VTOLs with full occupancy could outperform ground-based cars for trips from San Francisco to San Jose or from Detroit to Cleveland, for example.”

Researchers at Ford Motor Co. found out that VTOLs require a large amount of energy to take-off and climb but are more efficient than cars once cruising. Hence, for short trips, VTOLs will account for more emissions than land vehicles but were more efficient over long distances, according to the study in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers at Ford Motor Co. found out that VTOLs require a large amount of energy to take-off and climb but are more efficient than cars once cruising.

A typical flying taxi with one pilot and the three passengers could travel 100km in about 27 minutes, said, researchers. VTOLs are capable of producing 52 per cent less greenhouse gas per passenger than two petrol-powered vehicles making the same journey by road, and six per cent less than two electric cars.

The same efficiency will, however, will be slashed to 35 per cent compared to one petrol car and 28 per cent higher than one EV with just one occupant.

“A much more efficient and easier way to improve the state of long-distance car travel is to provide public transit options and to provide incentives for people to not drive solo in their cars,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The University of Michigan study did not offer a timeline of when to expect VTOLs to take passengers on their first flights.