Sep 8, 2022 - Economy

United doubles down on electric air taxis

An artist's rendition of a United Airlines flying taxi over a city.

An artist's rendition of a United Airlines flying taxi over a city. Photo illustration: United Airlines

United Airlines announced Thursday it will invest $15 million into electric aircraft company Eve Air Mobility and purchase 200 of its electric air taxis with options to buy 200 more.

Why it matters: The airline is heavily investing in electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), which could one day provide a cheaper, faster and cleaner mode of transportation.

  • The vehicles use electric motors instead of combustion engines, need less space for take-off and landing and could be used to taxi passengers or transport cargo around major cities from rooftop to rooftop.

United said it believes eVTOLs can help it reach its goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and "have the potential to revolutionize the commuter experience in cities around the world."

  • The airline said it is expecting the first deliveries from Eve, a Brazilian startup subsidiary of Embraer, as early as 2026.
  • Thursday's announcement comes after United invested $10 million in Archer Aviation for 100 of its initial production eVTOLs.

What they're saying: "United has made early investments in several cutting-edge technologies at all levels of the supply chain, staking out our position as a leader in aviation sustainability and innovation," Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, said in a statement Thursday.

  • "Today, United is making history again, by becoming the first major airline to publicly invest in two eVTOL companies," Leskinen added.
  • "United's investment in Eve reinforces the trust in our products and services and strengthens our position in the North American market," said Andre Stein, co-CEO of Eve.

The big picture: eVTOL startups like Eve still face major technical and regulatory hurdles, as many of them still need certification from aviation regulators for their prototype vehicles, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

  • United said its investment in Eve "was driven in part by confidence in the potential growth opportunities in the [urban air mobility] market" and its relationship to Embraer.

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