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Flying cars have for years been limited to the world of fiction. Now there are plenty of companies hoping to make the sci-fi dream a reality.
One such firm is Lilium, a Munich-based start-up with big ambitions for the future of transportation: a five-seater electric air taxi, due to launch commercial flights in 2025.
The main goal Lilium is hoping to achieve, according to Chief Commercial Officer Remo Gerber, is making such a service an affordable one that people can use just like they would a ride-hailing app like Uber.
Around the time Lilium was established, its founders realized they didn't want to make a "luxury product" or "something we sell to rich individuals," but a "service that's affordable," Gerber told CNBC in an interview.
To get a better idea of just how much that would cost, the executive used the example of taking New Yorkers from Manhattan to JFK Airport within six minutes for about $70.
Lilium says its aircraft, which takes off and lands vertically, can travel 300 kilometers in an hour after a single charge. In the U.K. that means it would be able to take someone from London to Manchester — in other words, from the South to the North of England – in one journey.
In terms of general pricing, Gerber explained that a typical short-distance ride would cost about the same as a trip with a ride-hailing firm like Uber or Lyft. Long-distance flights would cost the equivalent of traveling economy class in an airplane, he added.
With a route like London to Manchester in the U.K., Gerber said, customers would have to fork out a similar amount to what they would pay for a train ticket. According to travel metasearch engine Gopili, an average train ticket on that route costs £60 ($76).
The German start-up's five-seater jet took to the skies for the first time last month, a key milestone for the company. Prior to that, Lilium had tested a two-seater variant in 2017.
Lilium was founded in 2015 by four friends from the Technical University of Munich. To date, it's raised about $100 million from investors including China's Tencent and the London-based venture capital firm Atomico.
Six years from now, Lilium will be available in "a number of cities around the world," Gerber said.
And while Lilium's aircraft is controlled by a pilot, the firm says it's putting together a team of experts focused on unmanned jets. According to Morgan Stanley, the market for autonomous flying cars could be worth $1.5 trillion by 2040.
Other than Uber, Lilium faces stiff competition from major aerospace players Boeing and Airbus, as well as the German start-up Volocopter, which is also working on a vertical take-off and landing air taxi.