What’s it all about?
The electrification of transport continues at pace (literally and metaphorically), and one of the most interesting areas of growth, particularly for those who have to deal with high levels of local and regional road traffic congestion, is electric taxi’s. One of the leading pioneers in this sector is Vertical Aerospace. I was able to speak to founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick ahead of his hot footing to New York to ring the bell on their NYSE public Listing on 16th December. We talk disruption, electrification, innovation and of course entrepreneurship. I hope you enjoy the episode.
About Stephen Fitzpatrick:
Cleantech entrepreneur Stephen Fitzpatrick founded Vertical Aerospace in 2016, an electric aircraft company which is pioneering electric aviations. The Bristol, UK-based company has partnered with Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell, GKN and Solvay to build one of the world’s most advanced electric VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing). Its VA-X4 aircraft will be capable of speeds of 200mph, a range of over 100miles, near silent when in flight and with zero operating emissions. Vertical has 1,350 conditional pre-orders of its aircraft for $5.4bn from the likes of American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Avolon and Bristow. The VA-X4 will be delivered to its customers, after certification, in 2024.
Stephen is also the founder of OVO Energy, the UK’s largest independent energy company supplying British homes with 100% renewable energy. OVO hopes to decarbonise 5m British homes by 2030.
About Vertical Aerospace:
Vertical Aerospace is pioneering electric aviation. Over the past five years, Vertical has focused on building the most experienced and senior team in the eVTOL industry, who have over 1,700 combined years of engineering experience, and have certified and supported over 30 different civil and military aircraft and propulsion systems.
Vertical’s unrivalled top-tier partner ecosystem is expected to de-risk operational execution and its pathway to certification, allow for a lean cost structure and enable production at scale. Vertical has received conditional pre-orders for a total of up to 1,350 aircraft from American Airlines, Avolon, Bristow and Iberojet, which includes pre-order options from Virgin Atlantic and Marubeni, and in doing so, is creating multiple potential near term and actionable routes to market. In June 2021, Vertical Aerospace announced a SPAC merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp (NYSE: BSN).
- Stephen LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-fitzpatrick-9858bb9/
- Vertical Aerospace LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/vertical-aerospace-ltd/
- Vertical Aerospace Twitter: https://twitter.com/VerticalAero
- Vertical Aerospace Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/verticalaerospace/?hl=en
- Vertical Aerospace YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMrfQ2oH7u7IVG5z0mFlWXQ
About Hyperion Executive Search:
Hyperion are a specialist executive search firm working with some of the most innovative cleantech companies in the world, helping to find extraordinary talent to enable their growth and success. Partnering with leading cleantech VCs, as well as directly with founders and entrepreneurs in the sector. With our clients we are transforming business and growing a strong and prosperous cleantech economy.
If you want to grow your team, or move forward your career, visit www.hyperionsearch.com, or email email@example.com
EPISODE LINKS HERE
- Heathrow’s flying taxis will shuttle passengers between UK cities for the price of an Uber in just four years’ time https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10123779/Heathrows-flying-taxis-shuttle-passengers-UK-cities.html
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David Hunt 0:32
Hello, I’m David Hunt, CEO and founder of Hyperion executive search and your host for the leasing concept podcast. With cop 26 concluded not far behind us with many positives, it’s not quite what we’d all hoped for. We again though her towers of how many private jets were being flown in and out of the event, just as with Davos, and the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson flying home for his tea. Our guest today founded and leads a company with a viable solution for those of us who need to or want to fly but also who want to reduce and are conscious of our environmental impacts. I’m joined today on this episode by Steven Fitzpatrick, former investment banker turn serial cleantech entrepreneur. Stephen is the founder of over energy UK is largest independent energy company supplying British homes was 100% renewable energy and this energy TV platform spin out Kaluza. Today though, we focus on vertical aerospace founded by Stephen in 2016, and he veto electric aircraft company which is pioneering electric aviation’s, the Bristol based UK company has partnered with Microsoft Rolls Royce, Honeywell G Ken solver and a host of luminaries to build one of the world’s most advanced electric vehicles. Its product a VA X for aircraft will be capable of speeds over 200 miles an hour a range of over 100 Miles near silent when fly and importantly, zero operating emissions. Vertical airspace has over 13 150 conditional pre orders for its aircraft with a value of over $5.4 billion. Now due to a bit of a technical error, we lost the three or four last the first three or four minutes of our conversation, which we have been unable to re record primarily due to the fact as we speak, Stephen is on route to New York and Wall Street to ring the bell on verta. Clara space is listed on the New York Exchange, which happens on the 16th of December, the latest of my guest to be going public. So I hope you enjoy the episode forgive the last few minutes. Sorry, the first few minutes that we’ll miss, but 99% of the conversation is there. It’s fascinating. I hope you enjoy it.
Stephen Fitzpatrick – Vertical Aerospace 2:38
Okay, so I heard Boris Johnson speak a few weeks ago at the UK Global Investment Summit. And he described all the successful investors and entrepreneurs in the room as the cornflakes that managed to make it to the top of the packet. Right. And I think that’s it’s really amusing. But you know, a very true reflection. I think we take for granted the fact that the people we learn from and the success stories we hear they come from people that as I said they made it through they already challenges. And at time, you have no way of knowing whether you’re going to be amongst the lucky few, I think entrepreneurs, it well, it is just as we were talking earlier, I think entrepreneurship is, you know, about good timing and about getting the right people and having the right idea. But you know, it’s there’s so many stories of people with the right idea with the right people and with great timing that, you know, they they come up against an obstacle they couldn’t get past. And they were able to make it to the next
David Hunt 3:33
Yeah, yeah. Now there’s a couple of things that come from, I guess one of which, of course, as you say, you know, you look at the numbers from from any VC and they kind of, you know, one in 10 hit rate from from, you know, for most startups is shows that the odds are against, even if you’ve got the right money and good people behind you. But going back to your story, I guess it’s just a really difficult circumstances when you started the business know, that element of resilience, but there must have been times or where I should say, almost felt like giving up or felt like at least that you weren’t going to break through and become one of the top conflict, so to speak. But were there people around you or systems around you? Or how did you pull through and what sort of led you to keep faith so to speak, and really push through?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 4:14
I think this is where having a really clear vision of what success looks like can really help. And, you know, focusing on, you know, having a big enough goal that’s really motivating. And it feels ambitious, and that feels worth doing. It feels worth overcoming the shorter term challenges. Because I think we all have it, whether you’re an entrepreneur or anybody in the career, their life generally, are always good days and bad days. And it’s, you know, being able to remember why you’re doing it. Even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going. It’s going very well to help smooth out the bumps in the road. But I don’t think it’s necessarily just true for entrepreneurs. I think it’s true for everyone.
David Hunt 4:57
Yeah, I think the sense of purpose and as you say whatever. There’s that drives you on whether it’s a big goal or your family or whatever the circumstances are that as you say, get you out of bed every morning. Political podcast point of view, from our story point of view, the sense of purpose. And impact is really what drives a lot of the entrepreneurs and the businesses that we work with. Obviously, I’ve always gone on to be a great success and don’t really want to dwell on the energy situation that we’re in, which is clearly back to us, you say quite challenging times. But that sense of purpose and scale and disruption must, in my mind, at least have driven the move into vertical aerospace in an area where, again, it’s quite an old sector, you know, to aviation is perhaps not as a huge amount of disruption or innovation in recent years, but clearly a massive, massive goal to electrify flight, a real, you know, challenge and a real need. Why did you choose that you could have chosen many other way? I know you’ve had closure in between as well. But then, you know, there could have been other areas of electrification of transport or other areas of decarbonisation that could have been on your Horizon? Was there a particular reason you chose flight?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 6:06
I think there’s, there’s lots of answers to that question. The story I’ve told, which, you know, always surprises me the most is it is true. I, I, a lot of your listeners will know I mean, some colleagues, we we ended up buying a Formula One team out of bankruptcy, which is a very unusual start to decarbonisation story. But we, I’ve been a lifelong Formula One fan and the opportunity came up, we purchased the team. And it was immediately obvious that we needed to think about additional revenues. And to make the team work, we had amazing technology and engineering, and in fact, great, you know, energy efficiency and low carbon engineering in the hybrid power trains at the modern Formula One era. But we figured that we were too far behind in the electric vehicle space, there are too many participants trying to electrify road cars. And we were looking at other ways to deploy up on technology. And when you think about what you have in motorsport, if real expertise and world class capabilities in aerodynamics in lightweight composites and carbon fibre, hybrid power trains, electrical control systems, and so on. And it became clear when we started looking at the numbers that the technology we had an f1 was just too sophisticated, too expensive to apply easily to road cars. And that the perfect application for this technology was aeroplanes. And so we started looking at different ways to bring f1 tech into aerospace. And it was on a trip to Sao Paulo, being stuck in traffic for hours of traffic for five miles on a 10 lane freeway going through the middle of Sao Paulo. And and when I got to the circuit, you know, there are just so many helicopters arriving. And I realised, this is how people would travel around the world’s largest cities in in the years to come. And when we think about large cities in Europe, we think about London, Paris, and so on, but actually, they’re tiny compared to some of the world’s largest cities. And traffic is a massive problem. There’s not that much space anywhere in the world to build new grind infrastructure. And so I started to think about, could we apply f1 tech to build, you know, cleaner, quieter, what we now call EB tolls, but back then we were, you know, flying cars, flying taxis. And that was it. That was that was the inspiration. And like a lot of entrepreneur stories, you have a personal experience that, you know, you get a bit of inspiration. But then after that, it’s a question of, you know, going to work through the numbers and doing research and evaluating business plans and, and trying to figure out, you know, do the numbers stack up. As you said, Aerospace is a sector where I would say there’s been huge amounts of innovation, but very little disruption. And much like energy. The industry worldwide has been dominated by a relatively small number of very large organisations. They’re very well suited to develop incremental improvements based on mature technologies. But when it comes to a real shift in technological capabilities, or you know, new breakthrough technologies, like lithium ion batteries, and like electric motors, I think incumbents are very, you know, they really struggled to make that shift. And this is where you entrants can provide real disruption. And if I look at the aerospace sector today, it’s hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars a year globally. And we’re we’re in a moment now where, because of the developments in battery technology and electric motors in the last few years, we’re in the most exciting time in aerospace since the dawn of the jet era. And so it really suits you Veterans and new companies.
David Hunt 10:01
Yeah, they’re also convergences, again, just brought to mind that you were talking there in terms of the catalyst or the germ of the idea. The Masters of scale podcast is when I listen to and I’m reading the book at the moment from Peter Thiel. And again, it’s looking at a lot of founder stories. And those strange moments that are often the kind of walk can be almost insignificant, ie being stuck in traffic, where suddenly this germ of an idea or a germ of something enormous comes to fruition, which is, again, interest in the big idea doesn’t always come from sitting down and thinking big, often it comes from happenstance. Really,
Stephen Fitzpatrick 10:34
yeah, but then, you know, the big idea, I hear a lot of people tell me that, you know, they’d love to start their own business, they’re just waiting for the right idea. And I could give you a dozen, but you know, I’ve got real confidence in but I’m just not going to do anything about it. And, ultimately, the ideas, and it’s a famous cliche, perhaps, but maybe a cliche, for a reason. The idea is 1%. And then then the other 99% is the execution. So it’s having, I would say, you know, having conviction, having confidence in the business plan, and then being willing to go through the bumps in the road. I think that’s definitely that’s what makes a successful. Yeah, absolutely.
David Hunt 11:17
The other thing, again, just thinking about convergence of technologies now, and the f1 stuff is really interesting, actually. But again, you go back to what it was 10, now 1011 1213 years, when the iPhone came around, it was again, a convergence of a number of advances in batteries, in glass, in, in software, in data storage, and all these other things, which enabled things to happen. And you kind of tend at the moment, there’s a pivot point, or, or a convergence point where, again, efficiency of motors, quality, and energy, density of batteries, material science, all these things are converging to enable what it is that you’re doing at this time, which perhaps couldn’t have been done five or 10 years ago.
Stephen Fitzpatrick 11:53
You’re absolutely right. And it’s something that I talk about in terms of where exciting breakthrough technologies come. And I think we’re in a world right now where most of the exciting developments in technology are coming at the intersections of different industries, rather than at the edge of any one industry. And if you think about, we could not design our aircraft in the way that we can today, without some of the breakthroughs in computing, and cloud storage and computational technologies that were emerging the last five or six years, that we’re designing our aircraft in a completely different way than we would have done 10 or 15 years ago, with materials that didn’t exist 10 years ago, with batteries that didn’t exist five years ago. So you’re absolutely right. And this is where, again, in such a fast moving technology landscape, there, there really are opportunities for new entrants into emerging sectors, because that fast pace of change and intersecting technologies doesn’t really see incumbents very well.
David Hunt 12:52
Yet again, I guess that leads on to a couple of things, you you quite rightly, in terms of that level of disruption and established comms do find it difficult to pivot or to disrupt. But one thing that’s interesting, certainly from my point of view of being so embedded in sort of the people side of growth and businesses and the talent side of things is, it’s not always easy to get people from established entities to be able to adapt to the mindset and the disruption required to work in a startup Have you had sort of, clearly you’ve got some very, very smart people in the business have you had challenges in getting the right people to have faith and to join, you know, a scruffy startup or be relatively well funded compared to working for, you know, a Boeing or a Rolls Royce or wherever they may have come from?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 13:38
You know, actually, I think that’s one of the things that surprised me from very early on in in verticals, history, was our ability to attract incredible talent. Right from the start. We based the company in Bristol, which is, you know, probably Europe’s leading aerospace talent clusters. So no shortage of supply of, of great engineers. And also, you know, one of the interesting things about designing and building aircraft, there’s such a long product lead cycles, take decades to develop and bring to reality a new aircraft, that it’s unusual for engineers and designers to have the opportunity to work on both a whole aircraft system and bring it from the drawing board through to manufacture. And so we’ve been able to offer, you know, a really exciting career opportunity to hundreds of engineers in Bristol, and we haven’t find any problem attracting great talent. And in fact, I would say they’re almost self selecting. And the engineers and designers that want the structure and the scale of some of our larger competitors that obviously, UK is an enormous it’s got an enormous aerospace industry. So there’s lots there’s lots of opportunities for all different types of people and different kinds of companies. think getting the getting the right pace out of you know, aerospace engineers, in a world where safety and regulation and certification is, you know, such a high priority, finding the right balance between, you know, iterating quickly and learning quickly, but also respecting all the lessons that have been learned over the last decades to build really safe aircraft. You know, that is a challenge. And that’s part of the fun is to try to figure out, you know, how do we enable really fast iteration and enable our engineers to move quickly. But to do that in a way that is consistent with the very highest standards of safety, and
David Hunt 15:45
you touched on something else there in terms of never setting up any form of an OEM or technology, which is going to take some time to evolve. It’s around, of course, having the people which we’ve touched on, but also, you need at times pretty deep pockets. We’ve worked with a number of Breakthrough Energy ventures back long duration storage companies, for example, where you know, the forward line of product is quite some time away. And you do need to have good levels of financial runway, you obviously had a couple of successful businesses already behind you, but have you sort of found funding this new project or new opportunity?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 16:24
I think the funding for deep tech, and especially, you know, long lead cycle, pre revenue, I think we do have a challenge in the UK. And lots of people have talked about that already. I don’t want to go into too much detail. raising the money in the UK was far from straightforward. And of course, we’ve we’ve ended up going to New York and listing on the stock market there. It’s a bit of a disappointment, I have to say, we have in the UK some great expertise in some sectors like fin tech and biotech. But on the whole, I don’t think we’ve got great scale up financing in the UK, and and hopefully that will change in the years to come. Obviously, you talk about having a good runway. I think there’s two parts to that. One is obviously to raise enough capital. The second one is to spend it well and, and not not have such a high burn rate that you end up constantly needing to raise more and more money. And this was one of the things we did really well in vertical in the early days, I think we were really efficient in how we spent our money. We had a really small team, they were really hands on. They were, you know, very entrepreneurial. Obviously, you can’t build a global aerospace company, you know, on such a tight shoestring. But what we were able to do early on was demonstrate some real successes and capabilities attract the right people. And then I think eventually, you’ve got to have a little bit of faith that the capital flows to where it is best placed. Yeah. So I think electrification of aero aircraft and air travel is, is a huge opportunity. And, and so I don’t think as long as we’re able to continue demonstrating that success against our milestones, you know, I think we’ll be able to attract as much capital as we need.
David Hunt 18:12
Yeah, no, suddenly, I say capital there, it’s not always easy to come by, or solely focused on where you might like it to be, particularly if it’s short, the one that’s looking for the, the resources, and we got to share with the audience a little bit more about the specific products and technology now, obviously, you know, there are other volocopter Lilium. Another sort of air taxis there are people like airway via ad Val Mr. Cobb on the podcast about a year or so ago looking at obviously, regional 1620 person fuel cell powered flight. Why did you choose their taxes? And how specifically does vertical airspace What do you call a veto of a retail product? differ? And how, where are you? Are you actually with the development of the presently.
Stephen Fitzpatrick 18:59
So we are coming towards the end of the build phase of our first commercial model. So we’ve already done we built to full scale prototypes of smaller vehicles that were the technology demonstrators or in an early concept. We, we decided not to take them through commercialization, because the the increase in performance of batteries was such that, you know, what was the best we could do with the available technology in 2018 wasn’t the best we could do with what was going to be available in 2022. Right? And even more so in 2024 2025 when we’re certifying and you know, bring it to commercialization. So the underlying technology is improving very quickly and so then in design needs to iterate to keep pace with that. Yeah. The The interesting thing about EB tall is that the the use batteries and electric motors allows us to do some really clever things with the propulsion systems. So the rotors and the motors and so on, you just perform functions that you just can’t do with jet turbine powered aircraft. So when I was looking at we were looking at in the early days, but what kind of electric vehicles would we see in the in the air? First of all, what I have come to understand is that, you know, to make something work commercially, it’s got to fulfil a customer need and in aerospace, you know, efficiency and value for money is something that just in just the same as energy, it really makes a difference. So if you develop an electric aircraft that is more expensive to operate than a jet turbine based aircraft, that’s gonna be a very niche product. Whereas if you can do something that you cannot do with a, with a jet turbine, for example, at takeoff, on land and take off vertically, quietly, and more safely than, for example, a helicopter, that that’s a service that people are going to be willing to pay for. And there is no jet turbine based equipment. I mean, helicopters are wonderful machines, but they’re dangerous. They’re noisy, they’re super expensive. And so when we looked at the the operating cost of an Eevee toll per passenger mile, and it was coming in at less than $1 per passenger mile, right became really obvious that there was going to be almost unlimited demand to make journeys like Heathrow to Canary Wharf in 12 minutes for 50 pounds. It’s just something that, you know, if you can build it, there will be a demand for that service all over the world. Yeah, so we we stuck to the veto, of course, I’m a big admirer of the guys zero avea their their base just around the corner from us actually. And, you know, hydrogen is going to play a really exciting role in the future of aviation, we’re doing something slightly differently. When it comes to Lilium, volocopter, and so on, there’s a pretty, a pretty wide field. Now, in terms of Evie tall, I’d say it’s narrowing pretty quickly. And there’s a relatively smaller number of companies, neither either will attract the right funding or talent to bring products to market. But you know that there’s a real emerging sector here that I think the UK in particular is, is well placed to lead on.
David Hunt 22:19
Yeah, yeah. Interesting. You going back to the point that you know, things so that the contributions technology is moving so quickly that your own product is iterating? incredibly quickly, which again, is a challenge. At what point do you have an MVP? what point do you have a product to take to market but but perhaps on in a particular context of aviation, which clearly issues have already alluded to is very, and rightly, there’s no safety lead and a lot of compliance? How do you, I guess, get certification, when the product itself is continually evolving? Perhaps what you have now is not what it looked like six months ago, perhaps a little differently, six months down the line?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 22:59
I think this is this is one of the design challenges that we have. We’ve very deliberately arrived that and kind of at a design freeze at a point where we think we can upgrade this aircraft as as better motors better batteries become available, we’ll be able to upgrade this particular design far into the future. So it was about building or designing an aircraft with an improvement in energy storage and energy density in mind. And so that’s, that was part of the design thinking, you know, right from day one. So we’re really delighted with the design that team has come up with, we’re, we’ve been through a lot of windtunnel testing simulation, so on it’s in the build phase at the moment, and we’ll be doing a test flight campaign starts in q1.
David Hunt 23:50
Okay, so really soon. And at what point do we hope to have the first commercial viable? flights?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 23:57
Yeah, so the programme takes us through to the end of 2024. So that’s when we are expecting to, to get certification. And I think it’s just a matter of weeks post certification that we can start to operate passenger services, of course, in aerospace, you know, over the last 100 years, there have always been overrun. So we think between 2024 and 2025, that’s the right timeframe. So it’s between three and four years at this stage.
David Hunt 24:25
Yeah. Yeah. Which is really not far away at all.
Stephen Fitzpatrick 24:29
Now, there’s a lot of work to do between them. But you know, you think we need to start thinking about growing infrastructure or buying route planning around local airspace regulation. So there’s, you know, three or four years in the context of all this work that is, you know, we’re very busy at the moment. There’s a lot going on.
David Hunt 24:48
Yeah, no, absolutely. And obviously, with any form of electrification or change of transport infrastructure is really important. We spend a lot of time of course talking about Evie charging infrastructure for whether they be for vehicles and increasingly for heavy duty vehicles. I noticed You’ve had an agreement or sort of a partnership with Rovio in terms of building Vertie ports as you refer to them, which clearly you need to have the infrastructure if you’re gonna start making these flights. How was it? How did that come about? Where where are we likely to see, I think you mentioned 25. Very port to airports in the first instance, where are they likely to be?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 25:20
Yeah, so we’ve developed a partnership with Heathrow to start to explore the London and southwest area in terms of where we need to place the infrastructure for the big investor. There’s, and so we, the conversation went from there. If I look at the benefits that vertical takeoff and landing aircraft can bring, we can travel at speeds of 200 miles an hour. The range, you know on launch will be about 120 miles, it’ll get better over time, but still, it’s a really useful range. And if you think about the cost of developing high speed rail, so hs to the current budget is 100 billion pines. We can fly the first leg of that from London to Birmingham in the same you know, sub one hour time. Obviously, we’re not flying hundreds of people at a time. But yeah, you don’t need to invest in the grind infrastructure. And it can be London, Birmingham, London, Oxford, London, Cambridge, London, Bristol, Bristol, Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, and so on, we can create this great network. And then thinking a bit further on. I really see in the UK where we have some wonderful cities, especially in the north of England and Scotland that are quite poorly served by grind infrastructure. We can create great transportation networks between the likes of Manchester and Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow all you know, within range of, you know, one another, obviously not. Yeah, Sheffield Glasgow, but we can create a network and really help build connectivity between those cities. And then going a step further, you know, the Scottish Highlands and Islands, you know, we have dozens of communities that are served by really poor infrastructure and transportation links. And, you know, within range of Fort William, we can reach every single one of the Scottish Western Isles.
David Hunt 27:14
It is so great. Well, if you
Stephen Fitzpatrick 27:17
start to think about that in a global context, where you can connect, you know, Greek islands, that the turkey Istanbul is going to be a really exciting market, 16 million people separated by four miles of water in the Bosphorus, we can start to connect communities that are, you know, suffer from poor green infrastructure at a safety level that is, you know, the same equivalent as commercial airliners, and at a cost that most people that live in today’s cities can afford. So it really will be a transformational technology. Of course, it’s going to take some time to really mature but it’s only three or four years away before we start to see the first vehicles in the sky.
David Hunt 27:54
Yeah, now which is fascinating and being someone who’s London born and bred and, and obviously often on the Trebek live up in Liverpool for example. So again, I’m consciously aware of and it takes the train to London is a couple of hours but we probably protect the same against a kid to get to lead to your go up to Edinburgh, etc. So I think certainly levelling up as the phrase obviously goes in the UK, I think it’s quite interesting actually, that the UK is very, very capital city centric, and we’ve got offices in Munich, but Germany is far more regionally spread in terms of the the economic benefits but the UK suffers from from not being so so you can see huge opportunities to to bring a real Yeah, change of change of society in these areas through free technology, which is clear was good thing to improve society as well as the environment but clearly a big number of drivers.
Stephen Fitzpatrick 28:44
It’s an exciting time, that’s for sure.
David Hunt 28:47
So one thing that fascinates me nobody blinks at the fact you can stick a 17 year old behind a sports car full of testosterone to go out and drive around nobody flinches at helicopters, which are regularly overhead in most cities. And yet, you hear both autonomous vehicles and obviously I’m sure you hear as well around electric taxis, the worries or media hype around you know, how disastrous all can be. And we all know that boss, they’re certainly not yet perfect autonomous vehicles are certainly a lot safer than most teenagers and behind the wheel, how would you address or how are you planning to address or or educate people to the safety of of the technology?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 29:31
Well, I think this is where you know, we have always thought of ourselves as an aircraft company first, and we have made a real point of hiring very experienced aerospace and aircraft engineers and mostly with aerospace, the the mindset, the attitude is, you know, you assume everything is going to go wrong, and everybody still survives. And that’s, you know, the way that There’s a reason why air travel is the safest form of travel on the world by far. And it’s that in order to get certified in order to be permitted to carry passengers, you have to demonstrate a failure rate of one in 10 to the minus nine. So that’s one in a billion times you can have an operating failure. And so it’s an extremely difficult benchmark, not only do you have to operate that, you have to prove that that’s the safety standard you’re operating to. So so that’s the very first thing we you know, we accept the the most stringent safety standards that are there are so the CAA and the USA, which is the European equivalent, they’ve set the highest safety standards, you know, in the world for Evie tolls. And in the US, the FAA is, it’s a lower threshold for safety. For now, at least, yeah, and we’re certifying to the highest possible standard, the same standard is commercial aviation, we’re obviously gonna have to do a lot of work to help familiarise the public with these new vehicles, we’re going to have to do lots of demonstrations, we’re going to need to, to go on the road and show people but you know, I think over time, in my experience, it’s hard to rush that process. Yeah. You know, the public acceptance. You, people don’t change their minds that easily. So we’re going to have a lot of work to do. And it’s going to build over time. And I’m sure there’ll be early adopters, and there’ll be people that, you know, accept the technology later. I think the most important thing is to be able to demonstrate the capabilities of the aircraft, the safety standards that were adhering to, and run the the company, like other aircraft, businesses, where safety is the first, second and third priority. Yeah. And it’s not about, you know, proving what we can do. It’s not about going faster, it’s about working within existing regulations. But with new technologies.
David Hunt 31:51
Yeah. Again, to remind me of a thing was black box thinking by Matthew Syed was sort of looking at the learning and the safety process and protocols within within aviation compared to within the medical environment. And it was a fascinating look at just how the systems and processes within the aviation are phenomenally geared towards learning and eradication of any kind of safety incident. And as we all know, the more often than not when there is an incident, it’s human error, or something else. But yeah, I guess it’s important to get those stories out, because it’s very easy in a clickbait media to to be sidetracked. And we also see that with autonomous vehicles to again, just demonstrate and show and perhaps showing a bit of patience, maybe, which is frustrating when we’re all moving so quickly.
Stephen Fitzpatrick 32:37
With that one, I heard a really interesting talk about the challenges facing autonomous vehicle systems. And it was something along the lines of, you know, if you’re in control of a vehicle, if you’re driving it, you’re willing to accept a lower or higher level of risk, because we all back ourselves, it’s to perform well, when the danger comes. Whereas if we are being asked to give over control, either in terms of public transport, or in the case of autonomous vehicles, we accept a much higher level of safety than we would if we were in control. It’s just human psychology. And so I think that’s the interesting thing is that autonomous systems don’t have to be as safe as human systems, they have to be much, much safer. Yeah, we accepted. And I think we’ve still got a bit of work to do on that,
David Hunt 33:25
ya know, lots lots going on, I think, obviously being fascinated to every bit about vertical aerospace, and what’s going on a super exciting to think that within a very short period of time that we will see the first commercial flights are sending most demonstration flights and commercial flights not not far behind. You’ve obviously got a foot in the camp over the last few years in both the energy transitions and of course, the mobility transitions, both of which are a phenomenal pace. Aside from Evie tolls, where do you see or what’s interesting you where do you see the biggest challenges and opportunities in the next three to five years in the both the energy and the mobility transitions?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 34:02
Yeah. So again, going back to what we were discussing earlier, I think some of the most exciting opportunities and changes that are coming in, in the energy sector are coming at the intersection between energy and other industries or other technologies. And, you know, we have this enormous challenge of decarbonizing the power sector, and generating more and more clean electricity or renewable and zero carbon electricity. But then we also need to decarbonize our energy applications, and in particular heat and transport. And so the thing that we are very focused on at ovo, and our technology and software division that we developed called Kaluza, which is an intelligent energy operating system is the integration of electric vehicles and electric heats and other applications on to renewable grids. And so if you think through what renewable means that means, you know, zero carbon energy but it’s often in intermittent or what we call non dispatchable. We can turn it on and off. And so if you’ve got an increasingly intermittent electricity supply, at the same time, you’re trying to electrify cars and heat and so on. It’s a recipe for disaster, unless you apply some intelligence. And so integrating electric vehicles, electric heat, batteries and other storage mechanism on to, you know, low carbon or zero carbon grids. That’s a really enormous challenge. And it’s going to require intelligence it’s going to require digitization is going to require device integration, it’s going to require a massive shift in how we manage energy systems. Yeah. And it’s going to require, you know, consumer participation, all of these devices are going to be in consumers homes, it’s not going to be that somebody at national grid can just call up and say, I want everybody to turn their electric vehicles off. Or I want them to turn in charge, you know, plug them all in. Yeah. So there’s, there’s a massive shift coming in, in how you design the whole system. A lot of work to do to make the change.
David Hunt 36:03
Yeah, no, I say I think what, in fact, one of the things. And again, it’s kind of a bit of a cliche that, you know, the V electric vehicle is the gateway drug for a lot of people into acknowledging or understanding or having a greater concept around energy. I actually started the solar business back in 2007. And it was amazing when people had solar on the roof, which were, again, early adopters, back then it was very expensive, but how it just changed their whole mindset around where energy comes from and how they utilise it, and when they should turn stuff on and off. Again, I think the electric vehicle as it is scaling quite rapidly is bringing that mindset to people that you can, on mass have an impact personally on, you know, broader issues or broader capabilities of the grid, for example?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 36:45
Yeah, well, I think it’s just, you know, a part of a bigger trend, where I think there is more and more personal recognition that we each have our own part to play in decarbonisation, or addressing climate change, and it is the is the total of millions and millions of individual decisions that will make the difference. There’s only so much that sweeping government policy can do. And so this is an exciting time, you know, the, it’s an exciting time for entrepreneurs and for investors in the sector. And there’s just a lot to do. I mean, it’s the, the decarbonisation of the UK residential sector is 10s of billions of pounds a year, every year for the next decades. So an enormous opportunity, if we can figure out, you know, how to make it work for consumers.
David Hunt 37:36
Yeah, absolutely. And beyond that, of course, we know that the UK housing stock in particular is quite old and and inefficient. But you know, it’s the same across most of Europe. And beyond that there’s equal sized opportunities, we’ve got a lot of work in Germany, of course, and across Europe, there’s equal sized opportunities for entrepreneurs to to address these issues right there across Europe, and indeed, globally. Fascinating to talk to them, we could go on forever appreciate you, you’ve got other things to do. I always tend to close out with a little bit of going back to your entrepreneurship and what sort of keeps you going. And we all know that it’s rough going at times you need that resilience we started on but are there any places you go to or that started off your inspiration, and you thought leaders, books, podcasts, and any sort of media or any any thing that sort of you, your go to place when times little bit tough to keep you inspired?
Stephen Fitzpatrick 38:27
You know, that’s an easy one. My children are avid technologists and my parents, and they’re all delighted about the idea that, you know, their daddy owns a an aircraft company. And anytime I’ve ever felt any moment of DYDZ, or lack of enthusiasm, I tried to visualise him to explain to my son. Why when I’m not in the aircraft business. These my both my sons and my daughter, the, you know, the, they’re both they’re all a source of inspiration. And I think going back to the what we started talking about with about purpose. You know, I think the idea of playing a part in decarbonising flight, yeah, is really motivating. To me, it’s something I really enjoy travelling, I enjoy flying. And I simply don’t think the answer is that we’re all going to give that up now that we’re going to stop flying. And when I think about the world, I want my children to live in. My son, my eldest son wants to be a pilot. So I feel very motivated to be part of that, you know, finding a solution for that. And I think whether it’s good days or bad days, that’s a big motivator.
David Hunt 39:43
Yeah. Yeah, I get again, yeah, big driver. When you think of, again, a lot of the cliches that we don’t own the Earth. We borrow it from our kids kind of thing, but drives a lot of the people who’ve been on the podcast and likewise with three quits It inspires you and also humans. You It’s quite funny that my daughter was berating my mother in law the other day for not having an electric vehicle, which was
Stephen Fitzpatrick 40:08
the the that is that’s the driving force behind the electric vehicle revolution. Our children are pushing us into it.
David Hunt 40:15
Yeah. This has been really fascinating to spend some time with you really appreciate that, Stephen. What we’ll do of course on the episode page will point to the vertical aerospace website and there’s lots of content, lots of visuals and some videos that they can access and take a look at. But otherwise, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and look forward to taking my first flight hopefully, before before my son’s my kids are still not enough to come and watch him. Wait.
Stephen Fitzpatrick 40:43
Okay, David, it’s been a pleasure. I’ll make sure we can arrange that. Many thanks. Take care. Bye bye.
David Hunt 40:55
Hello, and thanks very much for joining us on The reason clean tech podcast. I hope you enjoyed that episode. And appreciate you joining us again, please do subscribe if you haven’t already. And please do share any episodes that have particular interest within your community. If you do get an opportunity to write us a review on Apple podcasts or your platform of choice, very much appreciated. Hopefully see you on the next episode.