Stephenson’s background is in designing iconic cars such as the BMW X5, Mini, the Ferrari F430, the Maserati MC12 and the McLaren P1.
He’s been called has been called "one of most influential automotive designers of our time". Now, he’s applying what he’s learned in automotive to aerospace.
Stephenson said: "I have taken the challenge of designing the next age of mobility, which is going vertical and taking taxis up into the air. It’s what we call an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft. It basically takes you from point to point in a much more efficient manner than what is possible today."
He explained: “If you can fly in the same line as the crow, as they say, you're going to be there a lot quicker and a lot more efficiently.”
The Lilium Jet is powered by 36 electrical motors which are located on the flaps of the wings. They turn 90 degrees downward for lift.
Stephenson said: “Then there's a transition phase where they'll go horizontal – then you're working with the lift from the wings. It’s not really a drone but you're using the power of the wings to keep you up. Then all the other power that you have from your electric motors just pushes you in a very quick way.”
Ready for take-off?
Asked what stage the programme is at, Stephenson said: “The design takes a while but the technology works. We've got prototypes that we've tested and which show that it actually does what we want it to do. Now it's a case of finding the best package layout for it so that we can get people from one place to another very comfortably and make it an incredibly enjoyable experience. And also to make the aesthetics of it in such a way that it's exciting to look at, but also very effective and dynamic.”
Although the official launch estimate for the Lilium Jet is 2025, Stephenson said recently it’s likely to be “much sooner than that”.