CEO JoeBen Bevirt with the Joby eVTOL prototype.
The growing electric air taxi market is expected to be a $57 billion industry by 2035.
Startups are racing to build the first certified eVTOL thanks to investments from airlines like United and Delta.
Joby Aviation recently got the green light to start flight testing of its five-seater S4 2.0 eVTOL.
The era of electric air taxis is almost here, and there are several competitors vying for a piece of the lucrative market.
Startups like Archer Aviation, Vertical Aerospace, EVE Air Mobility, Boeing-backed Wisk, and Joby Aviation are all building a new type of aircraft known as an electric takeoff and landing vehicle, or eVTOL.
Picture a giant drone big enough to carry people across at least 100 miles — and these aren’t little pipe dreams, either.
Organizations including the US military, Boeing, and several global airlines are investing millions into eVTOLs as the low-noise and zero-emission aircraft are expected to be a solution to congested city roadways.
In 2021, United Airlines placed a $1 billion order for Archer’s Midnight eVTOL, while Delta Air Lines invested $60 million into Joby Aviation in 2022. Other carriers including Air New Zealand, American Airlines, and Japan Airlines have also taken interest as the industry is expected to boom to $57 billion by 2035.
Insider sat down with company executives at the Paris Airshow in June, having already covered Archer’s upcoming plans with United — and Joby has a similar vision.
Take a look at Joby’s five-seater S4 2.0 eVTOL, which the company said is expected to enter service in 2025 and be priced equal to that of an Uber.
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Joby expects its eVTOL to transfer people from a downtown metropolitan area to a nearby major airport in just minutes, meaning it can make several round trips on one charge.
“We will be operating the service in partnership with Delta, flying to and from cities and airports,” company founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt told Insider at the airshow.
Delta said in a press release that the agreement will offer customers a “differentiated, premium experience.”
Joby has three prototypes of its S4 2.0 aircraft, though the company’s first production eVTOL rolled off the assembly line in late June.
This means the eVTOL is close to certification, and it has also received a special airworthiness certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to begin flight testing.
Bevirt explained each propeller is driven by two separate motors, which creates an extra layer of safety.
“There are a total of four battery packs on the plane, but even if you lose a battery pack, a given motor can still generate all of its normal thrust,” he told Insider.
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The zero-emission flights will not only reduce an operator’s carbon footprint but are much quieter than helicopters. Joby says it’s eVTOL will 100 times quieter than conventional planes.
This is particularly important in places like New York City where residents have long complained of noisy choppers flying overhead.
Bevirt says he wants everyone to be able to use Joby’s eVTOLs, emphasizing that it’s also a fun way to travel in general because of the skyline views passengers will get, especially in Manhattan.
“It’s absolutely incredible to see places like New York from the air, and if you’re doing that on your way to work every morning then it changes your outlook on the day, and it changes your outlook on life,” he said. “So, we’re excited about not just saving time, but providing people a new perspective.”
According to the ride-share company, an Uber Black between Downtown Manhattan and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport is $180 as of 2:00 p.m. on August 16, though prices fluctuate depending on the date and time of day.
He also noted the redundancies in everything from the propulsion system to the flight computers, which give the pilot backups if one technology fails.
“This aircraft has a substantially lower pilot workload, which makes it more intuitive,” Bevirt explained. “The pilot can go hands-off because the eVTOL stabilizes itself, so the pilot can focus more on things like talking to air traffic control and situation awareness.”
When the FAA was trying to figure out how to certify eVTOLs, they recategorized the aircraft as “powered lift” because it takes off like a helicopter but flies like an airplane.
This means the agency needed to write new guidance, forcing manufacturers to navigate the changing rules and delay production.
Though Bevirt told Insider his company “sees a clear route to certification” and does not anticipate further impact — a sentiment also shared by Archer.
Bevirt explained the craft’s safety and robust design make it favorable for the target operation and customers, noting Joby didn’t even feel the need to show off the S4 2.0 at the Paris Airshow.
“We don’t have a model here, we’re not a company that does that sort of thing, but we’re a company that likes to deliver,” he told Insider.