Board member at Archer Aviation Inc
- Market overview across key players and offerings in eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing)
- Technical and cost considerations plus cost reduction opportunities
- Outlook for urban air mobility networks including infrastructure and potential challenges
- Regulatory environment and pace of market development
How has the eVTOL [electric vehicle take-off and landing] industry developed over the past few years. Could you highlight some of the key trends and the players impacting the development of the market so far?
You mentioned quite a few players have gone public and a lot of prototypes have had quite a successful launch year. What do you think is the timeline of the development and the commercialisation of some of these craft? I’ve seen some targets from Joby for 2025, but could you discuss the challenges and opportunities surrounding those potential timelines?
Are there any technical challenges facing eVTOL players now? Are there any areas that really require more investment or development today?
How important do you think it is to be an early mover, such as Joby or Lilium, that took the battery technology and developed the prototype surrounding it? Do you think that will be a significant commercial advantage down the line, just being able to get certification earlier and then develop the batteries from there?
Do you think there’s any one or two of the eVTOL players that have a significant advantage in their production or projected operating cost? Who would you say is leading that industry on the cost curve today?
There has been variation from basically two-passenger craft to Lilium’s larger craft. What are the ranges and capacities now and where would you expect that to go?
We mentioned scaling up production and getting to that point, but what other areas of investment or innovation might be needed to get cost per passenger to a marketable level?
A helicopter replacement with eVTOL seems like the most easy path to forming some of these networks, but obviously projected market values for urban air mobility are significantly larger. I can expect the replacement of helicopters to develop, but how do you expect the urban air mobility networks to develop from that point?
The use cases for eVTOL are the regional air networks such as with Lilium in Florida, and the New York area, the traditional helicopter pads and then the urban air mobility. How do you expect these to develop the timelines that we’ve talked about? How do you expect different players to target different use cases, or are they targeting different use cases between them?
Do you think with the certification path, it might be easier to be certified and to develop the air traffic control surrounding these regional routes?
I think Joby is targeting FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] certification by 2023. What are the main hurdles or steps to obtaining that certification, where do we stand today and what’s still to be done?
Are there any different approaches or challenges between FAA certification and EASA [European Aviation Safety Agency] certification in Europe? Do you think one will proceed more rapidly than the other?
Beyond the certification of the aircraft, there are regulatory challenges in developing urban air mobility networks. Could you discuss the main challenges in establishing that and how eVTOL players might develop the air space management and regulation?
You mentioned that the original route is from downtown New York to JFK and then taking advantage of the infrastructure. What are the opportunities or challenges surrounding eVTOL in this within one city travel, the smaller distances, the more commuter and everyday kind of travel? How big could that be? What is the development of that?
As the usage of eVTOL come into play, what do you think the average distance for a flight in an urban air mobility network would be? Obviously we might have these longer ones from Lilium, but if we’re starting to notice the development of city networks, what would be the average distance and the frequency of flight that these players are targeting to start the networks up here?
How much of the 35 miles or under segment, just everyday travel, do you think eVTOL could pick up? Clearly there’s some amount of distances that wouldn’t be practical to have to go to vertiports and board and land, but where do you expect the sweet spot in that daily travel for eVTOL craft?
If we take a city such as New York or London, what do you think an urban air mobility network could be like in 2030, if we assume that these crafts are certified by then? What kind of routes or traffic levels could we expect?
If we take Uber Elevate or players establishing this, how are they thinking of the needed investment in vertiport infrastructure and how significant should that investment be in the early stages to establish these networks?
What kind of models do you think we could expect in how veriports are run? Do you expect private operators to operate the infrastructure and eVTOL companies to operate the commercial aspect of flights, or will they work to keep vertiports within network and included as part of their operation?
A few airlines are investing or ordering eVTOL. I think American Airlines and United Airlines both have considered it. Do you think those relationships or partnerships might become more common in coming years? It seems that eVTOL are targeting routes that don’t really make up the bulk of what airlines typically fly today, but how do you expect them to approach this segment and the eVTOL players emerging here?
Would you expect the players operating themselves to become more common, as a few more eVTOL players try to sell the craft, but maybe not retain all the operations in-house, or do we think they’ll keep a hold on operating the networks themselves and not try to outsource it to airlines so quickly?
It seems there are quite a few small players all at various stages of development. These SPACs have gone to market as well. What are your thoughts on the competitive dynamics within the market? Do you expect any consolidation in the coming years as smaller players try to ramp up and attain that scale that you highlighted?
Do you think a player such as Lilium, which is targeting that regional, slightly longer distance, might try to expand its portfolio range to target some of the shorter, more intercity networks? What are your thoughts on the strategy of expanding its portfolios and then increasing the offering of craft?
You mentioned the packages and non-commuter passenger traffic. How do you expect that market to develop for eVTOL? Do you think it could develop at a faster rate due to having fewer logistics and regulatory pressure on passenger travel? What do you think is the opportunity for package delivery?
We talked about the importance of scaling up manufacturing and approaching it more like an automobile manufacturing line. What are the key challenges in attaining scale? How large are some of the fleets these players are hoping to get in a particular city? How many craft would have to be present to make New York to JFK an efficient and marketable operation?
When we pilot for operating these aircraft, do you think the training and recruiting process for pilots might be a limiting factor for some of these networks? If they need the frequency and the scale of operations to drive the cost down, it would seem that we would need a significant amount of pilots within urban areas. How are players approaching pilot training and ensuring that there’s enough pipeline on that side of the business?
We’ve discussed some of these smaller eVTOL players and how they’re driving the market today. How do you think the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], Airbus and Boeing, are assessing this emerging market? Would you expect Airbus to focus on eVTOL in the coming years? How might the company assess the opportunity or the challenges from some of these upstart companies?
What are the key challenges that eVTOL players will be facing in the next 3-5 years? How are eVTOL players trying to address them or position themselves to address them?
Are there any points that we’ve touched on or that we’ve missed that you want to highlight or comment on before we conclude here?
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