Chapter 13: All-Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircraft (eVTOL) for Sustainable Urban Travel

Raffaele Russo, Eric Tan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Increasing urbanization, ground congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions have spurred aircraft pioneers to capitalize on advancements in battery technology, electric motors, software, and other advances to develop all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft intended to save travelers time within densely populated urban regions. This study served as an example for conducting a life-cycle analysis (LCA) of an eVTOL aircraft, analyzing its manufacturing process, its in-life operation as a passenger transportation service between urban locations, and (in part) end-of-life treatment. This case study aims to provide guidance on how to accurately conduct eVTOL LCA, particularly on how to define the problem, how to obtain the right information from engineers inside and outside their own organizations, and what areas to focus on. As LCA results are only as accurate as the assumptions that were made, a more rigorous LCA that includes sensitivity analysis and uncertainty characterization can help further understand the limitations of those assumptions. New technologies such as blockchain may also play an important role in LCA, including the life-cycle inventory and improving confidence intervals. Completing a credible LCA is central to supporting the argument in favor of introducing the new technology. Completing such a study will allow companies to demonstrate to relevant stakeholders the likely impact of their aircraft on the environment by quantifying the operational climate footprint of the aircraft and the manufacturing process used to build it. To this end, this case study also provides examples of how to report and present LCA results, optimizing for communications to non-LCA experts. The LCA can also assist in identifying opportunities to improve the environmental performance at various life-cycle stages, informing decision makers as products and manufacturing processes evolve or are redesigned. Given the nascency of both eVTOL aircraft manufacturing and operations, it is strongly recommended that LCA analysts treat reports on eVTOL aircraft as works-in-progress. As new information is found, design changes are made, and the aircraft or operation gains maturity, it is inevitable that some amendments will need to be made to the LCA. It is suggested that a complete overhaul of the LCA be made every 18-24 months throughout the R&D, design, and operational scale-up phases of the project.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationSustainability Engineering: Challenges, Technologies, and Applications (1st ed.)
EditorsE. C. D. Tan
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CH-5100-84853


  • climate footprint
  • eVTOL
  • life cycle assessment
  • sustainability
  • sustainable urban travel


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