Santa Cruz-based Joby Aviation has been quietly working on its tilt-rotor eVTOL air taxi for over a decade now, but seems to have taken a big step forward after going public via a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, called Reinvent Technology Partners. That deal results in a company that’s being valued at $6.6 billion (!?) on the NYSE.
Let’s take a step back here, before we go too much further. The first thing you need to understand going into this is that VTOL is a term used to describe aircraft capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing maneuvers, with the “e” in eVTOL standing in for “electric.” In fact, most of the commercial drones you’ve seen are eVTOL aircraft, and these air taxi ones just happen to be big enough to carry a pilot and a couple of passengers along for the ride. The second thing is that there are dozens of companies trying to gain first-mover status in the eVTOL / flying car space.
Are you still with me? Good, because what makes this particular eVTOL air taxi concept interesting is the money behind it. Namely, the $394 million investment Toyota put into Joby Aviation last year. When the investment was announced, it was believed that Toyota would lend some of its manufacturing expertise to the project while Joby focused on the continued development and FAA certification of the 200 MPH aircraft. It seems like that development work has been fruitful, too, because Joby announced its SPAC deal on the same day that it revealed the first video of a Joby Aviation air taxi actually — you know, flying!
Joby expects each of its tilt-rotor aircraft to cost about $1.3 million to build, and the video (above), shows the eVTOL do its thing by taking off vertically, hovering a bit, then shifting into forward flight by tilting the fan blades forward into a more “propeller-y” sort of configuration. Joby says the air taxi can reach a top speed of 200 MPH, travel up to 150 miles on a single charge, and function while generating just about 1% of the noise of a conventional aircraft — which, having lived near airports, I can tell you is a huge deal.
The company also projects that each of its air taxis will generate about $2.2 million in annual revenue, assuming that the aircraft will fly approximately 7 hours a day and spend 12 hours in operations, carrying an average of 2.3 passengers per trip. That’s quite a bit more business than companies like Quantum XYZ are projecting, but those fixed-wing air taxis can’t really land in the middle of a major city like eVTOLs can, so maybe that’s reasonable. Heck, Joby Aviation will tell you those numbers are conservative, and they probably know better than I do.
While we wait and see what happens, I invite you to watch the video and place your bets on the future of Joby Aviation in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Personally, I’m betting the 1% will love it!
Correction: Joby was flying its aircraft before the investment with Toyota. Its first subscale prototype flew for the first time in 2015, and its first full-scale prototype took to the skies in 2017.
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