Inside the high-stakes race to build the world’s first flying taxi

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The Lilium prototype in a hangar in Wessling, Germany.Credit…Felix Schmitt for The New York Times

Lilium, a German start-up, illustrates the potential and the risks of creating a new generation of electric aircraft for urban transportation.

MUNICH — Inside an airplane hangar about 20 miles from central Munich, Daniel Wiegand lifted the door of a prototype that he said would become one of the world’s first flying taxis. He’s coy about how much it cost to build — “several million,” he says — but promises that within five years a fleet of them could provide a 10-minute trip from Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport for $70.

A lot is riding on his plane. Mr. Wiegand, 34, is the chief executive and a founder of Lilium, one of the most promising and secretive start-ups in the global race to build an all-electric aircraft that will — regulators and public opinion willing — move passengers above cities.

“This is the perfect means of transportation, something that can take off and land everywhere,” Mr. Wiegand (pronounced VEE-gand) said. “It’s very fast, very efficient and low noise.”

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