Air Taxi Startup Lilium Raises $240 Million in Fundraising Round Led By Tencent
While many developers of advanced technology are focused on the ground, such as building self-driving cars and automated robotaxis, there are a handful of aviation startups working on battery-powered "flying taxis" that may one day wisk passengers over cities clogged with traffic.
Munich-based aviation company Lilium is one of the companies developing all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft for air mobility. The company announced this week a new internal funding round of more than $240 million.
The investment round was led by Chinese technology company Tencent, with participation from Lilium's existing investors European venture capital (VC) firm Atomico and German VC firm Freigeist Capital.
With its latest funding round, Lilium has raised more than $340 million. The investment will be used for the continued development of the Lilium Jet VTOL aircraft and prepare for its production at Lilium's newly-completed manufacturing facilities.
Lilium plans to operate a regional air mobility service as early as 2025.
"This additional funding underscores the deep confidence our investors have in both our physical product and our business case," said Lilium's Chief Financial Officer Christopher Delbrück. "The new funds will enable us to take big strides towards our shared goal of delivering regional air mobility as early as 2025."
The company's Lilium Jet is a 5-passenger VTOL aircraft powered by 36 electric motors. The jet has a range of 300 kilometer (186 miles).
Lilium was named as one of Europe's most innovative companies in 2020 by Fast Company.
The Jet's "electric engines" as Lilium calls them, are designed to be quiet, with air ducts that dissipate noise before it leaves the engine. Since the Lilium is much quieter than a helicopter, it can be flown lower over urban areas without creating a noise disturbance for the residents below. The quiet electric engines also deliver a comfortable experience for passengers.
The engines face downward like a rocket to enable vertical take-off, then swing to a horizontal position for flight. Once in the air, lift is provided by the wings and the electric jets are used solely for propulsion. The Jet's engines are also the first electric engines in commercial certification.
The Lilium Jet is built with triple redundancy in all of its flight systems for added safety. It's built to standards set by independent government bodies including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the U.S.
Lilium envisions a fleet of quiet air taxis zipping over crowded cities. The compact aircraft will be able to fly passengers between cities without the hassle of an airport check-in. The 5-passenger aircraft can wisk passengers from New York to Philadelphia in about 30 minutes.
The aviation startup plans to own and operate its fleet of Lilium Jet air taxis, which will initially be flown by pilots with a commercial license. In the future, Lilium plans to develop an air taxi version that doesn't require a pilot.
Lilium completed the first stage of flight testing in May 2019, with the Lilium Jet demonstrator flying at speeds exceeding 100 km/h.
Lilium is among a handful of well-funded startups working on VTOL aircraft for commercial purposes. The others include Kitty Hawk, backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, and Toyota-backed Joby Aviation. Ride-hailing giant Uber is also working on VTOL aircraft and plans to offer on-demand air mobility with Uber Air.
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