Flying taxi start-up secures $2bn for 500 vehicles
Image credit: vertical aerospace
Aircraft leasing company Avolon has issued a $2bn (£1.4bn) order for 500 electric vertical take-off and landing (‘eVTOL’) vehicles from British start-up Vertical Aerospace.
Avolon, which is based in Dublin, said the agreement will introduce the “ultra-short-haul aircraft category” to commercial aviation, using zero-emissions aircraft.
The deal reflects a growing interest in the sector that could challenge the dominance of traditional short-haul aircraft carriers in the future.
Vertical's VA-X4 currently has a range of 120 miles, long enough to travel from London to Cardiff, but Avolon’s chief executive Domhnal Slattery believes this can be extended further.
Vertical first unveiled its eVTOL vehicle last year and said it could begin a commercial service by 2024. The VA-X4 is 13 metres long with a 15-metre wingspan, can carry up to five passengers and cruises at around 150mph.
While prices for the air taxi services are initially expected to fall somewhere between a helicopter flight and a private car, this is expected to decrease as adoption grows.
The new agreement will give Avolon equity in the firm alongside businesses including Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell, and American Airlines.
It said the vehicles represent “the forefront of technological change” in the industry and lead the way towards electrification of air transport. Planes that do not run on fossil fuels will ultimately be needed if the world is going to stick to Paris Agreement pledges to keep climate change in check.
While larger electric planes are being developed for short-haul flights, longer-haul flights present a challenge.
Avolon reiterated Vertical’s intention to commence a late 2024 service, and said that $1.25bn will be laid down first for 310 eVTOLs with the option to acquire an additional 190 aircraft up to a value of $750m.
“Our order with Vertical will accelerate the inevitable commercial roll-out of zero emissions aircraft,” Slattery said. “Before the end of this decade, we expect zero emission urban air mobility, enabled by eVTOLs, to play an increasingly important role in the global commercial aviation market.
“With Vertical, we will revolutionise air travel and continue to reduce the impact of our industry on the environment. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, air travel will be materially reshaped with airlines needing to embrace emerging technologies that decarbonise air travel.”
Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of Vertical Aerospace, commented: “This agreement, with an established aviation company like Avolon will allow us to plug into their global commercial network of airlines, reaching key decision makers in a fast and efficient manner.”
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