Joby Aviation, a California-based aerospace company that has been working on electric airplanes for more than a decade, has just closed its last round of financing with $ 590 million in venture capital funds, and an important new partner.
Toyota will work with Joby to design and build a fleet of vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) for use in a passenger transport service. The Japanese car giant was part of a pre-financing round of Joby that closed in 2018, helping the secret company raise $ 100 million. Obviously, Toyota liked what he saw, because he took a step forward to lead this last round of fundraising, which raised Joby’s total increase to $ 720 million. Joby recently announced an agreement with Uber to deploy its air taxis in its transportation network, although it is not clear if Toyota’s air taxis will make the cut.
Joby is a creation of the inventor JoeBen Bevirt, who started the company in 2009. The company operated in relative darkness until 2018, when Joby announced that he had raised the astounding $ 100 million from a variety of investors, including capital weapons from Intel, Toyota and JetBlue risk. The money helped finance the development of the company’s air taxi prototype, which has been conducting test flights at Joby’s private airfield in northern California. Bevirt helps to operate an incubator outside of Santa Cruz that has been described as a quasi commune.
Unlike the dozens of other companies that are currently building electric VTOLs, Joby has kept a large part of his project secret. But as part of Toyota’s announcement, Joby decided to share more details about his plane, and some images.
The fully electric plane has six rotors and five seats, including the pilot. It can take off vertically, like a helicopter, and then move on to the forward flight using tilt rotors. Joby says it can reach a maximum speed of 200 mph, can travel 150 miles on a single charge and is 100 times quieter than a conventional plane.
“We are building a new transportation system to transform your daily life, with greater safety and, on time, at a cost similar to driving,” Bevirt said in a statement.
With Toyota as a manufacturing partner, Joby believes he can take his planes to market faster than the rest. “Toyota will share its experience in manufacturing, quality and cost controls to support the development and production of Joby Aviation aircraft,” the company says. “This support, together with capital investment, will accelerate the certification and deployment of this new mode of local transport.”
It’s the season of agreements for Joby. The company formed a partnership with Uber a few weeks ago. Joby will supply and operate electric air taxis, and Uber will provide assistance for air traffic control, the construction of the landing platform, connections to land transport and, of course, its reconfigured shared travel network to allow customers to call to flying cars (instead of boring, regular, land). The transport company also recently showed a large-scale model of the flying taxi that it helped create with Hyundai, and also has other manufacturing partners.
Of course, many companies, including Joby, have promised revolutionary new planes for years, just to break deadlines or not keep past promises. Kitty Hawk, the flying car company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, is reorganizing amid reports of breakdowns, battery fires and returned deposits. Zunum Aero struggled to raise money and was forced to fire employees after Boeing retired as a sponsor.
After all, the jury is still pending to determine whether an electric vertical takeoff and a landing-based air taxi system would contribute significantly to a next-generation transportation system, or if it would simply be an escape hatch for Super rich avoid congestion at street level.