- Laura Calegari
EVTOL: Sustainable Mobility Lands in Brazil
The aviation sector is a very relevant sector in the world economy, accounting for just over 4% of the world's GDP. To put it in perspective, if it were a country, aviation would be the world's seventeenth largest economy, handling close to 4 billion passengers annually. It has gradually evolved over the years and contributes substantially to the technological development of other sectors. Among its most recent commitments is that of becoming increasingly sustainable, so that the most recent investments are focused on the development, for example, of sustainable fuels and the use of electric energy to reduce emissions.
One of the main actions currently underway is the development of electric propulsion flying vehicles, called EVTOLs, which are part of the Advanced Air Mobility ecosystem that will also include the infrastructure necessary to operate these vehicles, flight procedures and other key elements for the safety and efficiency of this new mode.
DRONES - EVTOL
To better understand this evolution, let's take a step back, let's talk about something that is already incorporated into our daily lives: unmanned aerial vehicles, the DRONE. Drones today are indispensable tools in different sectors of industry, agriculture, construction, security, and many other segments. Little by little they are evolving into new fields, such as the delivery of small-volume goods, which is also beginning to take steps towards the transport of people.
EVTOLs, vertical take-off and landing electric vehicles, will be able to revolutionize the way we move around cities, generating more integration between the modes of transportation we know. They will not only bring benefits in terms of transportation efficiency, but also in terms of reducing pollution and improving the quality of life in cities. Surely many of you are wondering if EVTOLs will ever be a reality. The answer is YES.
There are currently several companies dedicated to the research and development of these vehicles around the world. There are several authorities and industry bodies working on the development of procedures and standards to make this operation as safe as aviation as we know it today. At this moment some of the manufacturers are already testing their vehicles to start the certification processes, an important step for the implementation of their use.
It is expected that in the next few years, starting in 2024, some vehicles will be certified for manned flight, and in the future, with the evolution of the ecosystem in general and the population's confidence in relation to this new means of transportation, these vehicles could become autonomous.
And, how does EVTOL integrate with
the transportation models we already know?
In a recent survey conducted in some of Brazil's major capitals, 79% of the citizens interviewed said they believed that the integration of one or more modes of transport brings benefits to cities. Today, most major urban centers have different modes of transport that operate in an integrated manner. With technological developments, even more possibilities for integration are opening up. Bicycles, private cars, buses, trains, cabs and application vehicles operate in an integrated manner to offer more alternatives to users.
In large cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, helicopters are a reality as an alternative to traffic jams. However, the vast majority of current means of transportation have pre-established routes in common, which limit users' flexibility. With the popularization of the automobile, these routes become congested, affecting the population's quality of life.
Finally, all current modes of transportation, except for bicycles and electric cars, contribute greatly to air and noise pollution. According to research, 44% of
Breaking the barriers between land and air transport, incorporating EVTOL as an alternative between the current means of transport, moving from pre-established routes to multiple options, contributes to less congestion in cities, which also leads to a reduction in air and noise pollution.
EVTOLs will have a range of approximately 150 to 200 km. This makes it possible not only to connect several points within a city, but also several cities in a region. All this in a sustainable and innovative way, as they run on electric batteries that generate no emissions and have low noise emissions. EVTOLs are expected to become an increasingly popular and accessible transportation option in congested urban areas.
Some of the companies in the sector estimate that initially the average value of a 15-minute ride, which could be capable of covering considerable urban distances, will cost between US$50 and US$100. As the market evolves and matures, this value tends to decrease. This means that, in heavily congested cities such as Sao Paulo or Rio, EVTOL trips may cost slightly more than a cab, without the inconvenience of traffic, and considerably less than a helicopter flight.
Brazil is a country of continental proportions with a very particular geography that has all the ingredients for the development of this new means of transportation, where air transport is the only viable alternative for fast connections in several regions.
It has an enormous urban density, concentrating some of the largest urban centers in Latin America, especially São Paulo, which is the largest. Its traffic is intense, characterized by long traffic jams that contribute to increased pollution, affect the quality of life of the population and the economy. With an enormous potential to improve intra-city and inter-city connectivity, given its important technological and economic development.
It currently has a large fleet of helicopters in operation. Recently, São Paulo has become the city with the largest fleet in the world, surpassing New York. This scenario led DECEA (Department of Airspace Control) to create a specific procedure for helicopter operations in SP, which could greatly help in the development of procedures dedicated to EVTOL operation.
To illustrate the potential of Brazil in the development of Advanced Air Mobility, we bring here 3 potential cases of use of this novelty in Brazil in the intercity modality. Three approaches will be presented: a business line, a tourist connection and a connection with a social purpose.
Connecting Sao Paulo - Litoral Paulista (santos) - Business line
Case 1 deals with a possible business connection with the city of Sao Paulo, the most important business center in the country. It is estimated that approximately 11% of the population of São Paulo's capital city is fluctuating, people who commute from other urban centers to work in the capital. There are many cities that maintain this close relationship with São Paulo, with enormous potential for the development of air connections through AAM. Among them are the connections SP- Campinas, SP- Guarulhos (GRU-CGH), SP- Santos, and others. As an example, we have selected the SP-Santos route.
Santos is a coastal city in the state of São Paulo where one of the largest and busiest ports in Brazil is located. There is an important business connection between the two cities, located only 79 km apart. However, during periods such as the end of the year or summer, the volume of vehicles traveling from the capital to the coast is so great that the road system collapses, affecting not only those who go to the coast to rest, but also those who do business between the two cities.
The end of 2022 saw 4.8 million vehicles on Anchieta-Imigrante roads. This is as if all vehicles from Madrid traveled to the coast in a period of 1 to 2 days. At some times of the year it can take 6 to 8 hours by car to travel the 79 km. On the other hand, a helicopter ride between the two cities, which could be an alternative as it only takes 30 minutes, can cost approximately 300 euros.
In this context, the EVTOL connection would be a more viable alternative for an executive who needs to travel between the two cities for a meeting, for example, without excessive loss of time or high financial investment.
Porto Alegre - Gramado connection - High tourism demand
The second case involves studying the potential of the route between Porto Alegre and the tourist city of Gramado, in southern Brazil. A recent survey identified Gramado as the national destination of choice for Brazilian tourists, followed by the capitals of northeastern Brazil, such as Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador. Porto Alegre airport is the gateway for most of the tourists coming from other regions of the country and whose final destination is Gramado. From there the connection is given by the terrestrial mode (bus, vans or cars).
Due to the congestion observed at peak hours on the POA-Gramado connecting roads, the approximately 120 km journey can take up to 3 hours. The feasibility of implementing an airport in the region to meet this demand has been under discussion for many years. However, the project was never implemented due to the high investment required, possibly related to the geographic characteristics of the region (mountainous).
In this context, a less costly solution that could offer an alternative to the tourist in the stretch between POA and Gramado is the implementation of a landfill in the region, which could meet this demand on an ongoing basis.
Isolated Areas - Social Integration
Finally, the third case has a social, integration and connection character. As can be seen in the map opposite, the Plan Aeroviário Nacional 2018-2038 identified several regions of the country where it can take more than 11 hours to reach the nearest airport. In case of health emergency, for example, this population would have many difficulties to move. Thus, for case 3 we chose an eventual connection between the city of Gurupa and Macapá.
Gurupa is in Pará, relatively close to the capital, Belém (about 300 km), on the opposite side of Macapá (capital of Amapá) on the Amazon River (173 km), near Altamira and the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, the fourth largest in the world. From these characteristics it is clear that the city is not in an isolated region. However, the local geography makes travel complex.
Due to the dense jungle, rivers and few land connections, Gurupá is located in this red region of the map. From there, it takes 12 hours by boat to reach Macapá (the nearest capital) and up to two days by car. Gurupá is not an economically powerful city; public administration is the main driver of the local economy. Building an airport in Gurupá would not be feasible, it is not a region with sufficient demand for it. This is a situation observed in many other cities in the region.
As an alternative, a nearby landport base, within the radius of the vehicles, could represent a low investment that would allow promoting this regional integration between several sub-regions of the Amazon, for example.
So, what's next?
The first thing to do is to analyze the potential demand. Through the analysis of the socioeconomic variables, the particularities of each region, the purpose of each route and the interaction with other means of transport, understand what would be the estimated volume of passengers in the future and with these estimates we calculate and define the infrastructure needs for each implementation horizon, in the short, medium and long term.
These needs will determine what investments will be necessary and allow the preparation of a business plan, even if the route has a social function, to understand the dynamics associated with its operation. With these and other complementary analyses done, it is possible to perform a comprehensive feasibility analysis that will determine the potential of the route and its adherence to the stated objective.