Lilium’s Misrepresentations over its Technology Keep Mounting

Please refer to our disclaimer at the bottom of the report.

Lilium regularly releases PR statements on future suppliers, potential partners, and even its fancy cabin design. 

Yet the company has not demonstrated any meaningful range on test flights, even after moving its flight program to Spain. As a reminder, the Lilium Jet eats through power at far greater rates than comparable vehicles.  

Lilium did demote its founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand to chief engineer for innovation and future programs, which likely shows the board’s frustration with Lilium’s slow progress. 

Lilium is also slowly learning that not all PR campaigns work out well. Handelsblatt reported in July, “A look through the darkened windows shows: Lilium’s demonstrator is still flying with a forklift battery, which takes up a large part of the cockpit. A four-minute test flight lowers the charge level to just 66 percent.” The journalist also found that the Jet produced a lot of noise: “Then it gets loud: When the 36 rotors start, it sounds as if someone had started a huge industrial vacuum cleaner.” More on this noise issue below.

This follow-up report will show:

  1. Zenlabs’s magical cell properties are meaningless without durability.
  1. The technological issues with the Jet go considerably deeper than originally thought. Professor Volker Gollnick — a German aeronautics expert — reviewed Lilium’s white paper and helped identify these problems.
  1. Zenlabs’s magical cells properties don’t matter in the absence of durability

Lilium recently acknowledged that its mysterious potential battery technology provider is Zenlabs, which we suspected. This company is a 35%-associated company of Lilium. Its CEO Sujeet Kumar was accused by General Motors of misrepresenting the state of its technology, while at his previous company Envia Systems. Zenlabs’ patents come from Envia.

Lilium’s recent blog post suggests the company has found the world’s best battery technology to support its ambitious 250km range: “You can see that the advantage of the Zenlabs cell is its combination of both superior specific energy and specific power capabilities. With this comparison, the Zenlabs cell surpasses both the specific power capability of the high power cell and the specific energy capability of the high energy cell.”

The cell performance has been confirmed by a third party Energy Assurance. But the test report reveals the cells have only been tested for two cycles. It’s easy to claim exceptional properties if durability is not tested.

Source: Energy Assurance Test Report on Zenlabs cells

Indeed, Kumar pulled the same trick at his previous company Envia. 

Source: Quartz,“The mysterious story of the battery startup that promised GM a 200-mile electric car” (12/19/13) 

Lilium has been unable to respond to criticisms of the Jet’s power-hungry design. It has instead chosen to make Hail Mary claims of a miraculous battery cell that would beat anything on the market. Similar to Theranos, this is Lilium’s way of “faking it till you make it”.

2) The review of the Lilium’s white paper by an aeronautics professor reveals that Lilium’s technological flaws run deeper than thought

Lilium published a white paper on 6 March 2021 to demonstrate its eVTOL’s capabilities with existing battery technology. It was issued in response to criticism in the German professional press. Lilium boasted the paper was reviewed by five aeronautics professors. 

We asked Volker Gollnick, Professor of aeronautics at the Institut für Lufttransportsysteme of Hamburg, to review this white paper. His conclusions are very critical. His entire report has been attached below. The report was amended based on Lilium’s feedback, which unfortunately, remained vague on some key aspects. 

The main findings of the report are:

  1. Prof. Gollnick spoke to the aeronautics professors named in Lilium’s white paper. It appears that the professors had indeed reviewed the calculation methodologies. But they did not agree with the numerical assumptions. This is a major difference that clearly undermines the white paper.
  1. Noise levels from the Lilium Jet are expected to be higher than a helicopter because of very high exhaust speed produced by the ducted fans.

From the report:

  1. The Jet’s real range is much shorter with more realistic assumptions, which include:
  • Longer hover time: Hovering is the most energy intensive phase and needs ‘approximately 2-3 minutes’ versus the 1-1.5 minutes stated by Lilium. Longer time is necessary to clear obstacles on take-off.
  • Minimum de-charging level: set at 20% to prevent battery damage, rather than Lilium’s assumption of 10%.
  • Battery ageing: Lilium has not considered losses from maximum battery ageing across various charging cycles. This factor is set at 20% for lithium batteries.
  • Reductions in battery capacity are introduced, a result of packaging cells into batteries (30%) and integration (15% loss for battery  control,  safety  measures,  etc..)

These assumptions, progressively applied in the paper, result in a much lower range:

  • With battery technology available in 3 years: range would be only 19km for a 5-seater 
  • With battery technology available in 6-7 years: range would be only 58km for a 5-seater.

We are very far from the 250km range targeted by Lilium with current battery technology.

The complete report is attached below.

Conclusion

Lilium should have remained a school project and never come to market to raise hundreds of millions. There is no redemption for companies when their technology is structurally flawed. We had the same conclusion with EOS Energy, which is now down 93%. The same fate awaits Lilium. Wiegand recently announced that Lilium wanted to raise two more rounds of money. We believe it’s high time to end this charade before more investor money is incinerated. 

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3 comments

  1. What nobody seems to ask is why none of their demonstrators built so far has demonstrated actual full transition out of hover. Every fancy video with dramatic music seems to be designed to distract from that question. Full main wing transition is not the same as the body and front wings generating lift.

    The reason DARPA / Aurora Flight Sciences abandoned theX-Plane ( https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2017-04-04 ) with similar ducted fans in the flaps, was that it becomes uncontrollable during transition.

    You would think that all those experienced Airbus people that came in to manage would ask such questions, even if the early investors didn’t. Maybe they’re all trying to get rich before anyone finds out?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After 6 years and 4 generations of prototypes and demonstrators they finally achieved ‘full transition’ of the front canard. For 3 seconds. In a steep climb. So not actually evidence of the canard generating lift, only of (somewhat) laminar flow. Transition is where the wings generate lift to work against gravity, in the video we see that it is still the thrust vector that overcomes it.

      It’s unlikely that climbing at 1700 ft/min is going to be a huge battery saver.

      Like

  2. It’s an incredible project. As in: not credible.

    Like

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