In 2021 we saw the electric vehicle (EV) boom, with a plethora of automakers releasing their own version of the EV, both for personal and commercial use, in a bid to knock Tesla off the throne. We also saw billionaires enter the world of space travel, making it that bit more accessible for non-astronauts. So, what’s in store for 2022? According to several media sources, we can expect to see flying taxis as Vertical Aerospace goes public on the New York stock exchange, the latest of several aviation start-ups to do so.
There has long been speculation over the potential for flying taxis. Although an earlier prediction suggesting the technology could come into action in 2022 was slightly ambitious, with the current goal set for late 2024. The CEO of Vertical Aerospace, British energy entrepreneur and former Formula 1 racing team owner, Stephen Fitzpatrick, took the company public in December. This follows its merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp.
The special purpose acquisition company (SPAC)-IPO merger is valued at around $2.2 billion. And the chairman of Broadstone, Hugh Osmond, stated, “Vertical Aerospace is at the forefront of electric aviation, a fast-growing sector that will dramatically reimagine the entire aviation market. With the endorsement of key partners, suppliers, and investors we are confident that our partnership with Stephen and Vertical’s gifted team of innovators will disrupt transportation over the next decade to come.”
The company is centered around flying taxi transportation, also known as electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs). It is thought to have an order book of nearly $7.5 billion from huge aviation companies American Airlines and Virgin, as well as Rolls-Royce, Microsoft, and Honeywell. The firm hopes to come out above competitors by manning its vehicles with a pilot, which could make for swifter regulatory approval.
Fitzpatrick stated of the move to become a publicly-traded company, “We have global leaders in aviation as partners and a world-class team that can make the zero-emissions flight a reality for millions of people around the world. It is fantastic to reach this milestone and I am so proud of what the team has achieved.”
And The Guardian, this week, highlighted Vertical Aerospace as one of the seven businesses to watch in 2022. But the jury is out on whether people are open to flying taxis as the shares quickly climbed before falling back 30 percent all within the first week.
The U.K.-based transport start-up makes a convincing argument when it comes to the future of transportation in a country aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives. It claims the VX4 is necessary in cities saturated with cars and will open up urban air mobility. It also says it will provide zero-emissions transportation, as it runs on electricity, making it highly competitive with other modes of transport.
Vertical Aerospace says its VX4 aircraft is capable of flying four passengers at a speed of 200mph at a cost “comparable to a taxi”. In addition, it says its eVTOLs will be safer, quieter, and greener than helicopters – a common point of comparison.
The recent merger and interest in the company prompted a bidding race to win the company’s manufacturing business. Fitzpatrick explained, “We have been speaking to a number of different governments about where we might build the production facility. Domhnal is very keen on us taking it to Ireland."
At present, Ireland is a global hub for aviation finance but not for aerospace manufacturing, making it the ideal project to expand its aviation market. In addition, it could help improve its green technology sector as well as diversifying its investment portfolio.
But Vertical is not the first eVTOL company out there, and it’s not even the first on the stock exchange, as three other firms went public last year. The other companies, Joby, Archer, and Lilium, also used SPACs to go public. California-based company Joby Aviation has already carried out over 1,000 test flights and hopes to gain regulatory approval and commence commercial operations by 2024. Based on current developments, predictions suggest there could be 430,000 units in operation worldwide by as early as 2040.
To cater to these new vehicles, we can expect to see lots of mini-airports, or "skyports", popping up across major cities. We are seeing start-ups collaborating with other companies to ensure these new constructions are ready in time for operations to commence. For example, Joby has partnered with a parking firm in the U.S., Reef Technology, as well as New York property business Related Companies, with the intention of turning rooftops into skyports. Houston, Los Angeles, and Orlando have all also announced plans for skyport developments.
Vertical Aerospace is the latest in a long line of hopeful eVTOL manufacturers to go public, with the intention of commencing ‘flying taxi’ operations as early as 2024. Alongside these transport innovations, we will also see the development of skyports across major cities, with the potential to revolutionize urban transport.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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