Chinese Automaker Geely Invests in Volocopter, Aims to Bring Urban Air Mobility to China
Urban commuters in China may soon be whisked away in a electric aircraft from a building's rooftop instead of trying to navigate through congested city streets during rush hour.
German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter announced that it signed the first closing of its 50 million euro ($55.2M) Series C funding round led by Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Holding). Geely is the parent company of Swedish automaker Volvo.
With the latest funding round, Geely Holding becomes a minority investor in Volocopter, along with existing investor Daimler AG. The companies have agreed to a joint venture to bring Urban Air Mobility to the significant Chinese market.
Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG: "We are delighted to see our partners at Geely investing into Volocopter and becoming shareholders as we are since 2017. Daimler is committed to supporting innovative new mobility services. One exciting example is Volocopter and the idea of urban air transport."
Volocopter said the new funds will be used towards bringing the verticle takeoff and landing (VTOL) VoloCity aircraft to commercial launch within the next three years. The company is seeking commercial certification by the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) for its aircraft.
Volocopter anticipates a second closing of the Series C towards the end of the year. The company is in advanced discussions with both strategic and financial investors for a second closing and said it remains open to new investors.
"Urban mobility needs to evolve in the next few years to meet rising demand. With our Volocopter air taxis, we are adding a whole new level of mobility in the skies," says Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. "This funding round is allowing us to take great strides towards bringing Urban Air Mobility to life whilst being respectful of our shareholder's money."
Volocopter's VoloCity electric aircraft is based on drone technology. The VoloCity can hold two passengers and was specifically developed for manned flight in cities. The VoloCity aircraft has a range of 35km (21.7 miles) and a top speed of 68 mph.
The VoloCity is built using lightweight composite materials and uses 18 electric motors which are powered by nine exchangeable and rechargeable lithium ion battery packs. The battery packs can be swapped out in about 5 minutes.
The Volocity is also designed for quiet operation. All of the 18 rotors "acoustically operate within a narrow frequency band", so to the human ear they only sound twice as loud as one single rotor.
Volocopter envisions becoming the leading Urban Air Mobility service provider worldwide. The company is developing an entire air taxi ecosystem, including aircraft, take off and landing infrastructure called "VoloPorts", and the integration into air traffic management systems.
Volocopter says people will be able to use an app to book a ride in a Volocopter and be picked up at one of the company's VoloPorts.
"Geely is transitioning from being an automotive manufacturer to a mobility technology group, investing in and developing a wide range of next-generation technologies. Our latest cooperation with Daimler, building on our partnership in smart and premium ride-hailing services, as well as our joint venture with Volocopter underlines our confidence in Volocopter air taxis as the next ambitious step in our wider expansion in both electrification and new mobility services." said Li Shufu, Geely Holding Chairman in a statement.
Since its founding in 2011, Volocopter has built three generations of its Volocopter aircraft, two of which received licenses for manned and unmanned flight.
In Germany, Volocopter is working with Fraport AG, the operator of Frankfurt Airport, and the German Air Traffic Services. The companies are studying ways to incorporate air taxis into the daily operations of international airports. This includes security, safety, ground services, and passenger processes.
The Volocopter has performed numerous public demonstrations of the viability of electrically powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL), most recently it successfully completed a flight at Helsinki International Airport.
Last month, Volocopter performed a piloted flight integrated in the air traffic management system at Helsinki International Airport, demonstrating the feasibility of air taxis being combined with existing airport operations.
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