United Airlines investing millions in electric air taxis

Story at a glance

  • Traditional gas-powered vehicles are a major contributor to climate change.

  •  In light of this, many manufacturers are looking to transition to cleaner alternatives.

  • One option that could transform the future of transportation is electric flying taxis. 

United Airlines has its sights set on the future of transportation. 

Yesterday, it announced a $15 million investment in Eve Air Mobility, a company that specializes in electric flying taxis, in an effort to revolutionize commutes and aid the transportation sector’s transition to clean energy. 

The investment comes alongside a conditional purchase agreement for up to 400 electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), with first deliveries expected as early as 2026. 

Eve’s taxis have a range of 40 to 60 miles and the vehicles can cut noise levels by 90 percent compared with traditional aircraft. 

As part of the agreement the two companies plan to work on future projects together including the development of an urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem. Eve is planning on simulating its UAM system in Chicago next week.

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Last month, United submitted a $10 million down payment on 100 eVTOLS from Archer Aviation, a California-based company also pioneering private air taxis. This initial investment is part of a $1 billion partnership between the two companies. 

The investments are part of United’s strategy to pave the way for aviation sustainability and innovation, said Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures (UAV), the company’s corporate venture fund, in a press release

“Our agreement with Eve highlights our confidence in the urban air mobility market and serves as another important benchmark toward our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – without using traditional offsets,” Leskinen added. 

“Together, we believe our suite of clean energy technologies will revolutionize air travel as we know it and serve as the catalyst for the aviation industry to move toward a sustainable future.”

Calling the opportunity to work with United Airlines “unparalleled” Andre Stein, co-CEO of Eve, said he looks forward to the partnership.

“I am confident that our UAM agnostic solutions, coupled with the global know-how we have been developing at Eve and Embraer’s [an aircraft manufacturer] heritage, are the best fit for this initiative, giving United’s customers a quick, economical and sustainable way to get to its hub airports and commute in dense urban environments,” Stein said in a statement.

The partnership also grants United access to Embraer’s service centers and parts warehouses, along with field service technicians. 

For some, private air taxis can seem like a science fiction novel trope. But the industry has been plugging away at commercialization for years. 

In 2021, American Airlines said it would invest $25 million with Vertical Aerospace, while Boeing has been working alongside Wisk, another electric air taxi company.

However, as of August 2022, no company has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to begin commercial flights and many questions remain when it comes to pilot requirements and training. In addition, how these new systems will be integrated into existing aircraft systems poses a challenge. 

On Eve’s part, the company says it is developing a “new air traffic management solution” aimed at safely scaling the UAM industry. “This software is intended to perform at the same safety level as Embraer’s existing air traffic management software and expected to be a strategic asset to helping the entire industry grow,” the company’s press release reads.