Jan 25, 2022 - Energy & Environment

The electric aviation market is buzzing

An aviation symbol with a battery in it

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Boeing's $450 million investment in the autonomous electric air taxi startup Wisk is the latest sign of capital pouring into tech that could one day transform urban and regional mobility and curb carbon emissions.

Catch up fast: The aviation giant's latest funding for Wisk will help the California-based company develop the latest version of its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

  • The announcement Monday says it's a candidate to become the first autonomous, all-electric passenger aircraft in the U.S. (with the emphasis on autonomous there, while many other startups' plans involve pilots).
  • Wisk is a joint venture of Kitty Hawk Corp. — an electric aviation startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page — and Boeing.

The big picture: A suite of eVOTL and electric short-distance aviation startups, and next-wave flight companies more broadly, are attracting fresh capital through venture rounds and going public via SPAC deals.

Last year the eVTOL companies Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation and Lilium Air Mobility all went public.

By the numbers: Last year brought a surge of investment, with $7 billion in funding for next-generation air mobility companies, McKinsey analyst Robin Riedel tells Axios.

  • About three-quarters of the money was focused on piloted eVOTLs, with the rest for other sectors like drones and supersonic travel, he said.
  • Total investment in the overall future air mobility space since 2010 is roughly $12.7 billion, Riedel said via email.

What's next: Analysts see a big market for electric aviation, even though widespread use of electric air taxis and other vehicles, if it happens, is years away and companies' aircraft need regulatory approvals.

PitchBook analysts see the global market for passenger air taxis reaching over $150 billion in revenue by 2035.

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