German electric air taxi start-up gets a boost to commercial maturity


German air-taxi start-up Volocopter has secured €50 million from Chinese motor vehicle manufacturing giant Geely Holdings in its latest funding round.

The funds will be used to achieve Volocopter’s goal of bringing their electric aircraft to commercial maturity by 2023.

With goals to bring urban air mobility to China, Geely and Volocopter are hoping to establish a joint venture, with the two founders retaining the majority of shares.

Geely, which owns the Lotus and Volvo car brands, is also the owner of Terrafugia, a 2006 flying-vehicle company started by graduates of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduates of the MIT Sloan School of Management. The company intends to launch 2 street-legal flying cars by 2023.

Volocopter has developed electrical air taxis, based on multi-rotor technology, similar to that used by drones to carry up to two people.

The “air-taxi” uses vertical take-off-and-landing (VTOL), negating the need for dedicate runways, which would make them ideal replacements for helicopters, and other polluting aviation technologies.

The start-up revealed the design of its latest model VoloCity craft, the fourth generation of the electric VTOL from Volocopter, which will form the basis for the company’s planned air taxi service.

The German start-up is set to continue discussions with additional investors before the close of its funding round, which is expected later in 2019. The company, however, has raised capital commitments that will soon reach the 85 million mark.

Although there have been announcements in recent months by ride-hailing service Uber, and talk around the possibility of electrically-powered air-taxis ahead of the Paris Olympics, Volocopter has a clear goal – to establish Urban Air Mobility (UAM) to complement and relieve, existing modes of urban transport.

“Urban mobility needs to evolve in the next few years to meet rising demand. With our Volocopter air taxis, we are adding a whole new level of mobility in the skies,” says Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. “This funding round is allowing us to take great strides towards bringing Urban Air Mobility to life whilst being respectful of our shareholder’s money.”

The company recently announced a joint venture with UK company British Skyports, and the partners plan to complete the first port for electric air taxis before the end of 2019.

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The opening of an initial facility will help the partners’ prototype a mobile take-off-and-landing site, dubbed a “Volo port”, which will also facilitate quick, and repeated battery exchanges within a planned three-minute time-limit.

The aviation start-up has already commenced trials at airports, and recently completed a piloted flight at Finland’s Helsinki International Airport less than a month ago. The flight was conducted in compliance with the airport’s air traffic management system, demonstrating that air-taxis can be compatible with existing systems.