The race is on for the prime spots in the impending eVTOL revolution and major car-makers are determined to grab a seat at the top-table.
robbreport.com published an informative piece by automotive journalist, Jaclyn Trop, last week, (Amusingly, her Twitter handle reads, “I have the job a million teenage boys would die for”) highlighting the top six partnerships.
An obvious question: Why are car companies so keen to get involved? eVTOLs are primarily flying taxis and/or cargo carriers. Why do they wish to collaborate in a market so different to theirs?
Partnering actual flying car developers like the KleinVision AirCar or the Leo Coupe, for example, makes a lot more sense. As Trop points out, “(It is) an odd match, but the gold rush towards the new era of aviation will necessitate building these electric aircraft at automotive scale to meet forecasted demand in 10 years.”
She explains it is about manufacturing bragging rights rather than flying. Trop continues, “That’s why automobile manufacturers and eVTOL developers are pairing up now, like high-school seniors at the prom. Beyond credibility, the aviation start-ups are getting cash investments from the carmakers as well as technology and advice on how to build at automotive scale.”
It is also because auto marques are learning more about advanced composites and aerodynamics which make them even more attractive for the eVTOL industry.
KleinVision AirCar (credit: KleinVision)
Deutsche Bank analyst, Edison Yu, offers gravitas to this rationale. “The main reason is operational prowess, meaning that automakers are very good at making stuff consistently at high volume, with a supply chain that is very deep and diverse.”
So, what are the top six collaborations?
Joby Aviation — Toyota
Last year Toyota made a USD390 million investment in the eVTOL leader, Joby Aviation. Besides the cash infusion, the car manufacturer has been guiding Joby on processes at its new production facility. Joby recently reported that it was able to decrease the footprint of the factory by 100,000 square feet, while at the same time increasing efficiency.
Archer Aviation — Stellantis
Archer has partnered with Stellantis, the world’s fifth largest automaker, born from a merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group last year. It is the battery technology that is most attractive for the eVTOL company. Trop explains, “Stellantis’ scale will allow Archer to purchase the latest generation of batteries at significantly lower costs than competitors who may not have a major automaker as its partner.”
Eve Air Mobility — Porsche
Eve Air Mobility, already backed by the Brazilian multi-national aerospace manufacturer, Embraer, is working with Porsche to develop its manufacturing, supply chain and parts distribution. Andrew Stein, CEO of Eve said in June, “The partnership is designed to address scalability and distributed production. The UAM ecosystem is quickly evolving, and we can only achieve our goal if we spark enthusiasm for new ideas in manufacturing and supply chain areas.”
Lilium — Denso
German startup, Lilium, is partnering with automaker Denso and aviation specialist Honeywell to co-develop and manufacture the specialist electric motors that power the Lilium Jet’s engines. Honeywell already has an alliance with Denso to develop electric propulsion solutions for aerospace. Lilium says it will benefit from Honeywell’s expertise and Denso’s volume production. The partners have been working together for two years.
Volocopter Sign Deal with Geely for 150 eVTOLs (Credit: Volocopter)
Volocopter — Geely — Daimler
Volocopter has received financial backing from two auto giants. Geely invested USD55 million back in 2019 as part of a joint venture to bring urban air mobility to the Chinese market including the purchase of 150 air taxis. Meanwhile, Daimler Group had earlier raised around USD90 million for the eVTOL company. Trop writes, “It’s not clear if either automaker is providing technical advice or any other expertise to Volocopter.”
Supernal — Hyundai
Hyundai has committed a staggering USD1.5 billion to funding its subsidiary, Supernal, as the company develops and moves towards producing a five-seat eVTOL air taxi, penned in for commercial service during 2028.
Chung Eui-sun, Chairman of Hyundai Motors, has been committed to the project for five years. According to Jaiwon Shin, CEO of Supernal, Hyundai is initially offering its expertise to help the eVTOL company, “develop a more comfortable experience, starting with the interior.”
At the July Farnborough Airshow, Mike Whittaker, Supernal’s CCO, gave evtolinsights.com, a personal presentation of its interior cabin. First, he demonstrated a consul that lifted up next to the seats. This can do two things when the craft is flying. Control the temperature, allowing the passenger to adjust the climate within the cabin, and charge a mobile phone during transit.
Whittaker then mentioned some of the positive feedback gained from the public including how light the cabin is colour-wise; the amount of space available particularly for leg-room; how open the cabin area is and its various lines of sight; the excellent lighting as well as the various seat features including a hand grab and a hook on the back to hang a jacket or coat.
Mike Whittaker at Farnborough Enjoying Supernal’s Comfortable Interior
As he pointed out, bringing a car designer into the loop has really helped the design with the aim to create a memorable customer experience. Whittaker explained, “In aerospace, there’s a tendency to focus on the technology of the aircraft, and then stick seats in it. Cars are much more passenger-centric.”
The takeaway from these collaborations can be summed up with one infamous phrase: “Quid-Pro-Quo.” The eVTOL companies offer the car manufacturers a seat at the top table and in return they gain all the partner’s manufacturing experience and expertise.
(News Source: https://robbreport.com/)
(Top image: Archer)