All-electric flying cars get closer to reality

A fast, safe and sustainable alternative to ground transport? Aviation company, Joby Aviation, has started pre-production on its electric “air-taxi”, after securing US$100 million in funding from investors.

joby aviation landscape
A visual prototype of Joby Aviation's all-electric aircraft. Image: Joby Aviation

The flying cars depicted in sci-fi movie Back to the future may soon become reality as aviation company, Joby Aircraft, begins pre-production on its 5-seater aircraft.

But, unlike the petrol-powered DeLorean cars in the film, these aircraft are all-electric. 

The California-based company announced on Thursday that it has secured US$100 million in funding for the pre-production and certification phase of the all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger aircraft.

While the physical dimensions have yet to be announced, Eco-Business understands that the aircraft will be faster than existing helicopters, capable of flying at least 150 miles when charged, and be near silent in flight. 

JoeBen Bevirt, founder and chief executive of Joby Aviation, has dubbed the prototype an “air taxi” with plans for it to function as a ride-hailing service that will “cost about as much as an Uber ride.” The company has not said when it expects the eVTOL aircraft to be widely available.

A truly disruptive technology with the potential to push the geographical boundaries of where people can live and work.

Wendell Brooks, president, Intel Capital

This round of financing saw Singapore’s corporate investor EDBI join big investment groups including Intel Capital and Capricorn Investment Group, bringing the project’s total funding to US$130 million.

The capital injection has already enabled Joby Aviation to design, build and flight-test the electric aircraft. “We are now ready to build a commercial version of the aircraft,” said Bevirt.

“People waste billions of hours sitting on roads [in traffic] worldwide each year. We envision a future where commuting by eVTOL is a safer, faster, and cost-competitive alternative to ground transportation,” said Bevirt. 

Killing two birds at once, the eVTOL aircraft can potentially circumvent two major problems with ground transportation — air pollution and congestion. Vehicle exhaust from conventional fuels has contributed to air pollution, which has reached toxic levels in cities like Delhi and Beijing. Traffic congestion also plagues densely populated cities such as Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok.

Electric vehicles like the eVTOL aircraft can bring social and environmental benefits such as better urban air quality, noise mitigation, energy security, and greenhouse gas reductions.  

Wendell Brooks, president of Intel Capital, commented that the unique aircraft “is a truly disruptive technology with the potential to push the geographical boundaries of where people can live and work.”

Swee Yeok Chu, president and chief executive of EDBI, said she looked forward to Joby Aviation’s electric aircrafts “contributing to Singapore’s future urban aerial mobility and car lite vision.” 

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