Monday, January 24

The electric air taxi revolution gains pace with the agreements between Japan and China


Movements to deploy fleets of electric air taxis in some of the world’s largest cities are gathering steam with two of the industry pioneers submitting a series of orders.

Britain’s Vertical Aerospace Group announced a preliminary agreement to supply Japanese conglomerate Marubeni Corp. with 200 electric vertical take-off and landing craft on Wednesday, a day after unveiling deals with Brazil’s largest airline and the world’s number one helicopter operator. world.

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German rival Volocopter GmbH separately said it would set up a venture with investor Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. that will see its eVTOL model built in China, starting with an order for 150 to be deployed across the country.

Electric air taxis are emerging as a new sector of aviation, with early designs nearing maturity and their developers raising hundreds of millions of dollars through deals with special-purpose procurement companies. A series of orders has seen locations like Singapore and Bavaria plan tourist and medical functions for the ship, while airlines like American Airlines Group Inc. and Virgin Atlantic Airways see eVTOLs serving premium customers.

“While helicopter operators will be the major users, airlines are looking to eVTOL to connect airports to city centers for business and first-class passengers,” Vertical Aerospace CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick said in a statement. interview. “We also see new opportunities as higher safety, lower noise and lower cost models open up air mobility to almost anyone living in a city.”

The deal with Vertical Aerospace’s Marubeni brings the order book for its VA-X4 to 1,350 aircraft, the Bristol, England-based firm said in a statement. It follows Tuesday’s agreements to provide 250 to Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes through lessor Avolon Holdings and 25 to Houston-based helicopter company Bristow Group.

Marubeni could use the craft for public sector and medical evacuation flights, as well as to connect central Tokyo with Narita airport, avoiding a car ride of up to two hours. The city has more helipads than any other, but most are rarely used due to noise restrictions and government regulations.

“Japan is going to be a very large market for eVTOLs, with its high population density and large heliport infrastructure,” Fitzpatrick said.

Central China

The Volocopter joint venture will seek to implement eVTOL in China within three to five years after consulting with authorities. It will be based in Chengdu in Sichuan province, a city that is both a transportation hub and a manufacturing base for the automaker, which will produce Volocopter aircraft and parts.

Geely has been a Volocopter investor since 2019, with other sponsors including Daimler AG, DB Schenker, and the venture capital arm of Intel Corp. Volocopter plans what could be the world’s first commercial eVTOL flights carrying tourists around Singapore and providing an air ambulance service in Germany by 2023, and has applied for regulatory approval in the US and the European Union.

Traveling with eVTOL costs about $ 1 per passenger per mile for a typical 25-mile trip, according to Fitzpatrick. That’s about a fifth of the cost of a similar helicopter ride, he said.

Vertical Aerospace says the four-passenger VA-X4 will fly at 200 miles per hour for more than 100 miles, putting it firmly in helicopter territory.

Volocopter’s reference model, the VoloCity, had its first manned test in 2011 and is strictly an intra-city transport capable of carrying two people, hitting 68 mph, and flying 22 miles. The company said in May that it will be followed by VoloConnect, which will carry four people more than 60 miles at 112 mph.

Vertical Aerospace plans to conduct a first test flight later this year, with certification beginning in 2024, and said in June that it would be listed through a reverse merger with Broadstone Acquisition in a deal that values ​​its combined capital at approximately $ 2.2k. millions.

© 2021 Bloomberg


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