Rolls-Royce Is Building a Flying Taxi. No, Not That Rolls-Royce

(Bloomberg) -- Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc’s engines power the world’s biggest passenger jets. Now it’s turning to much smaller aircraft, joining the slew of companies trying to build a flying taxi.

The engine maker -- not the British luxury carmaker it split off decades ago -- has designed a concept hybrid-electric air vehicle that can fit four to five passengers and travel at speeds of as much as 250 miles per hour for about 500 miles, it said in a statement Sunday. The craft has wings that rotate 90 degrees to allow it to take off vertically, with four propellers that fold away at cruising height and an additional two on the rear that are used for thrust during flight.

Rolls-Royce Is Building a Flying Taxi. No, Not That Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce is pitching the concept to airframers and electrical-systems suppliers at the Farnborough air show this week in an attempt to bring partners on board to build a working business case that would see the craft ready for flight in the early 2020s. The company is already working with Airbus SE and Siemens AG on a hybrid regional jet, which has so far been the focus of Rolls’s efforts to commercialize electric engines.

While an increasing pool of companies in the aerospace, technology and motor sector are already racing to build a sustainable strategy for flying cars, Rolls-Royce is counting on its long history manufacturing engines capable of vertical take-off to give it an advantage. The engine-maker was the designer of the Pegasus jet engine that powered the Harrier jump jet, the world’s first successful vertical-takeoff plane.

The Rolls design uses a version of its M250 gas turbine, modified to perform as part of a hybrid system that charges the electric propeller system and the battery. The engine was first introduced more than 50 years ago and there are about 16,000 currently in service.

Rolls-Royce was formed as a car manufacturer in 1906, building its first aero engine at the start of World War I. The businesses were split in the 1970s as part of a government bailout of the jet-engine division. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is now owned by BMW AG.

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