Toyota invests in flying taxi
Car manufacturer Toyota invests 394 million dollars in Joby Aviation, an American start-up that wants to make flying taxis. “Aviation is a long-term goal for Toyota,” says CEO Akio Toyoda in a press release taken over by De Morgen. “With this, we have the opportunity to revolutionize the future lifestyle of people and their way of transportation. We hope to give people freedom of mobility and enjoyment, on land, and now in the sky.”
Joby Aviation, located in Santa Cruz, CA, is the aviation technology subsidiary of camera equipment manufacturer Joby. It previously collaborated with NASA on the experimental electric aircraft project, X-57 Maxwell, and is now working on developing its own four-passenger eVTOL.
Earlier, the company made a deal with Uber to set up an air-taxi network in at least two cities. Uber plans to bring its eVTOL air-taxi service to market in 2023, although it could also take a little longer because of the complex permits required from the various aviation authorities – there is no standard eVTOL certification yet. Joby’s Executive Chairman, Paul Sciarra, is convinced that Toyota’s experience can help to improve production quality.
Low noise pollution
The eVTOL, which looks like an oversized toy drone, has six electric propellers. The maximum speed is around 320 km/hour. The combination of the flight technique of a small aircraft and a helicopter leads to zero emissions and low noise pollution. When fully charged, the plane can travel 241 km. In addition, Toyota says that the costs of operation and maintenance will be limited.
Revolutionize city transport
Toyota believes that the aircraft cannot only be used for transporting people, but also goods. It would be an ideal solution for traffic density and air quality in inner cities, but also for transporting people in rural areas.
Apart from Toyota, there are a few other companies that have invested in Joby: Baillie Gifford, a Scottish investment firm with interests in Tesla, Amazon, Netflix, and the Arabic investment company, Global Oryx. Joby raised a total of 720 million dollars or almost 647 million euros for the project.
Race for e-air taxi
Several car companies have recently been developing aviation projects. Hyundai recently announced that it wants to develop flying taxis for Uber. The South Koreans have been working on a flying car, the Personal Air Vehicle, for some time now. It is electrically powered and can take off and descend vertically.
The European aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, is also working on an electric air taxi. Larry Page, the founder of Google, is involved in the American company Kitty Hawk, which collaborates with Boeing. And then there’s the German Volocopter, which runs on investments from (among others) Geely, the Chinese company that owns car manufacturer Volvo.
According to a study from consulting cabinet Oliver Wyman, we could see flying taxis in operation in more than 60 cities by 2035.