The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Bell unveiled the Nexus eVTOL aircraft at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2019, but revealed a further honed design—dubbed the Nexus 4EX—at CES 2020. The latest design is a tilting four-duct all-electric vehicle that features a central wing, integrated landing skids, and a conventional vertical tail but without a horizontal stabilizer. When announced at CES 2019 as a six-ducted design, first flight for Nexus was projected in 2020, with aircraft certification to follow in 2023. Bell has not yet provided an updated plan for the 4EX, which is now the final configuration for the Nexus.

Timeline

program launched

Bell unveiled its Nexus eVTOL program at the Consumer Electronics Show at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2019.

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

The Nexus is one of just a few eVTOL programs being advanced by a major manufacturer with relevant experience of bringing aircraft developed with related technology (i.e. helicopters) to market. What's more, Bell has firm partnership commitments from experienced aerospace groups, including Safran (engines); Thales (flight controls); Moog (flight control systems); Garmin (avionics integration); EPS (energy storage), and Sumitomo (logistics and transportation). This foundation inspires confidence that Nexus is a serious proposition.

Nexus 4EX Models

Nexus Specifications

local vtol Lift + Cruise

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    4
  • Range
    150 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    178 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    ducted fan
  • Power Source
    hybrid_de
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    n/a
  • Payload Weight
    n/a

Dimensions

  • Length
    n/a
  • Width
    n/a
  • Height
    n/a
  • Wingspan
    8 ft

On January 7, 2019, Bell unveiled a full-scale example of its new Bell Nexus aircraft. The model unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas featured a central wing, integrated landing skids, and a modified V tail topped by a short horizontal stabilizer. When flight trials begin, at a yet-unspecified date, it will be powered by  a hybrid/electric distributed propulsion system feeding six tilting ducted fans, each powered by individual electric motors. The six-fan design is a compromise between quad- and octo-rotor designs seen on other urban VTOL designs to provide system redundancy and space for passengers to safely embark and disembark the vehicle while operating. The ducted fans also offer improved performance and a quieter noise signature than comparable open rotor designs, according to the company.

At the same time, Bell also announced four collaborating partners on Nexus, with Safran providing the hybrid propulsion and drive systems. Thales will provide flight control computer hardware and software, Moog will develop flight control actuation systems, and Garmin will integrate the avionics and the vehicle management computer. EPS is tasked with developing the energy storage system.

The Nexus propulsion system incorporates a series hybrid layout in which a turbine engine feeds an electrical distribution system, which in turn routes power to a battery pack that drives the fan motors. In addition to providing system redundancy in the event of turbine failure, the series hybrid architecture offers an upgrade path towards eventual fuel cell and/or full-electric propulsion.

The  prototype's cabin is configured in a "4+1" layout with room for a single pilot/operator in addition to four passengers.