5 ways eVTOL got bigger in 2021
It’s only been a few years since the birth of the Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) movement, but by 2021 companies were already removing major barriers to success in financing, aviation partnerships, and infrastructure.
Over 150 manufacturers and startups around the world are developing entirely new designs for air taxis, ambulances, regional airliners, and even green and hover cargo carriers. None have obtained FAA or EASA certification, although several companies are planning certification as early as 2023 or 2024.
It’s all driven by the promise of a trillion dollar market and a chance to help solve two looming 21st century issues: carbon emissions and urban traffic jams.
Let’s take a quick look at five of the most important developments of the year in eVTOL, and their importance:
1. Main fundraising activity
California-based eVTOL makers Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation as well as Germany’s Lilium and Britain’s Vertical Aerospace raised hundreds of millions of dollars in new capital in 2021, stay afloat until commercial income begins to flow.
Instead of launching traditional Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), Archer, Joby, Lilium and Vertical Aerospace merged with Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPAC) to accelerate their IPOs. As a result, they became publicly traded stocks. By mid-December, the shares of all four companies were trending down from their opening prices.
Nonetheless, the new funds have helped them expand their operations and development towards certification of their aircraft.
The IPO also helped boost the credibility of eVTOL and the air taxi business model in general, the experts said.
While Volocopter canceled its SPAC plans, Embraer’s Eve Air Mobility took the opposite direction and decided to merge with a SPAC in 2022.
In September, Morgan Stanley named Joby a potential favorite with an “overweight” rating. Analysts said they expected Joby’s shares to perform better in the future and beyond others in its sector of the market, which is estimated to be worth $ 1 trillion by 2040. .
2. Airlines are interested
United Airlines raised eyebrows in February when it announced a billion dollar interim deal to buy Archer eVTOLs, which.
This was especially important because at the time of the announcement, Archer had not yet announced an aircraft prototype or tested one. The deal showed investors that it has the backing of one of the world’s largest airlines and best-known aviation brands. In December, Archer successfully completed the first flight of its two-seat autonomous demonstrator, Maker. The brief hover test proved for the first time that Archer’s design could fly. The flight also put Archer in the same league as other eVTOL makers who have effectively flown demo planes including Lilium, Joby, Wisk Aero, and others.
Six months after Archer’s deal with United, Lilium followed suit with a billion dollar deal to sell 220 eVTOL to Brazilian airline Azul. The following month, UK-based Vertical Aerospace partnered with helicopter operator Bristow Group to develop and purchase up to 50 eVTOLs.
In Japan, Volocopter announced a deal with Japan Airlines work on “permanent” air taxi operations in Japan, with a commercial launch “in the next three years”.
JAL has also entered into an agreement with the aerospace leasing company Avolon to buy or lease up to 50 eVTOLs from Vertical Aerospace. Agreement reflects Avolon’s contract with Brazil Gol airline to buy or lease up to 250 eVTOL Vertical Aerospace.
3. Big Push to build vertiports
You cannot operate an air taxi airline without ground infrastructure. For eVTOLs to become truly viable, strategically located vertiports will need to provide efficient facilities for boarding and exiting aircraft, charging batteries, and daily aircraft maintenance.
Technical infrastructure can be expensive, which is why major eVTOL companies have announced partnerships in 2021 to build new facilities or to reuse existing ones.
For example, Archer and Joby both announced vertiport partnerships with Reef, the largest owner of parking garages in the United States. Reef’s network includes more than 4,800 garages spread over 70 percent of the urban population of North America.
In the United Kingdom, Hyundai has teamed up with the British startup Urban-Air Port to build 65 “electric urban airports” around the world. Hyundai’s eVTOL subsidiary has a broader plan to build 200 “electric air mobility hubs” around the world by the end of 2026.
In Los Angeles, city officials and Volocopter began working this year with Urban Movement Labs, a government-community transportation partnership, to work with neighborhoods on planning potential vertiport locations.
“Infrastructure is a key to unlocking the eVTOL industry, as it is necessary to make the product useful to customers,” said Robin Riedel, partner at management and consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which analyzes and tracks disruptive aerospace and airline industries. “At the same time, they are complex and require real investments and development processes that often take years. “
4. Businesses target Asia-Pacific
The industry has sent strong signals this year that the Asia-Pacific region could be a leading eVTOL market.
Volocopter has announced a major partnership with the Chinese company Aerofugia. A new company, Volocopter Chengdu, will work with the Chinese government to launch the eVTOL service by 2026.
In neighboring South Korea, the Germany-based company conducted the country’s first flight demonstration of its prototype 2X in November, signaling Volocopter’s plans to establish an air taxi service there.
Brazilian company Embraer has also claimed the Asia-Pacific region. Embraer’s Eve Urban Air Mobility subsidiary has entered into an agreement with helicopter reservation platform Ascent to deliver 100 eVTOLs by 2026 to operate in Bangkok, Manila, Singapore, Tokyo and Melbourne, Australia.
5. Automakers want a piece of eVTOL
As well in 2021, Honda and one of Detroit’s Big Three, Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), have gotten into the eVTOL game.
In addition to nearly a century of vehicle production and project management know-how, the involvement of these historic builders provides a powerful vote of confidence for an untested 21st century transportation idea.
Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, provides Archer with cockpit design elements and advanced composite material capabilities.
Honda is developing its new aircraft as part of a “mobility ecosystem,” which would include ground transportation, air transportation and a reservation service system.
Car manufacturers in aviation? It’s somewhat reminiscent of an auto entrepreneur in the 1920s who decided to get involved in the nascent aviation industry. You may have heard of him. Henry Ford ended up producing a small airliner called the Ford 5-AT Tri-Engine, which has played a major role in the widespread acceptance of air transport.
By 2022, the eVTOL industry shows no signs of slowing down.
Archer, Joby, Lilium and others are expected to continue developing prototypes, moving closer to type certification of their planes with aviation regulators. Lilium plans to carry out flight tests in Spain with the aim of obtaining EASA type certification in 2022.
Joby says he’s on track to earn his FAA Part 135 certificate in 2022, which would allow the company to operate as a limited liability airline. It intends to operate traditional, existing and certified aircraft until its eVTOL achieves type certification, expected in 2023.
Swedish company Jetson Aerospace set to deploy ultralight, home-made eVTOL Jetson ONE in 2022
Also expected in 2022: the first flight of Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL prototype.
For the eVTOL industry as a whole, the coming year promises to bring many hurdles, including the development of complex technologies, compliance with regulatory requirements and investor satisfaction.
Other key eVTOL stories in 2021