Electric air taxi startup Joby gets $100 million in funding

Joby Aviation is a pioneer in the development of novel aircraft enabled by electric propulsion. For a number of years, Joby did important aerodynamics work with NASA and others on projects such as the X-57 Maxwell and LEAPTech.

Above was what Joby Aviation was working on in 2015. The current Joby electric air taxi is not being shown

JoeBen Bevirt is the founder and chief executive officer of Joby Aviation Inc., a startup that’s spent the past nine years trying to design and build a whole new kind of short-hop aircraft.

Joby Aviation has created a prototype that can take off vertically, fly for 15 minutes in a 15-mile loop, and return for a safe landing. It is powered by electric motors and sophisticated control software, the taxi performs like a cross between a drone and a small plane, able to zip straight up on takeoff and then fly at twice the speed of a helicopter while making about as much noise as a swarm of superbees. Bevirt says thousands of these sky cabs will one day shuttle people around cities, soaring above the conventional traffic below.

On Feb. 1, 2018 Joby Aviation announced a fresh $100 million in venture funding, more than three times the capital it had raised before, from investors including Intel Capital, Toyota AI Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, and Capricorn Investment Group, a prominent backer of Tesla and Space Exploration Technologies.

Low operating costs and high utilization for low air taxi fares

Fuel costs and other operating expenses (like maintenance and depreciation) are a significant component of air travel costs. A small, efficient helicopter on a short, 25mi trip can use more than $40 in fuel. Our fully-electric vehicle can cover the same distance at twenty times lower energy cost with significant reductions in other operating expenses. That savings can be delivered directly to customers.

While the Joby vehicle may be more expensive on a per-unit basis than traditional combustion planes or helicopters, the end-cost to customers can be lower if the vehicle is both high-capacity and highly-utilized. This is how existing commercial airlines are able to drive down costs. They keep their vehicles filled, and moving a lot of people most of the time. As a result, they can spread the fixed costs of the vehicle and the variable costs of pilots and maintenance over a larger number of passenger trips at progressively lower ticket prices.

Finally, Joby can drive down cost (and improve pickup times too) by scaling manufacturing, putting more vehicles into service, and operating from steadily more takeoff-and-landing locations.

Joby airtaxi will hold four passengers and a pilot and will travel at least 150 miles on a single charge at an altitude of a few thousand feet or less.

“Another goal is to be 100 times more quiet during takeoff and landing than a helicopter and near-silent during flyovers,” says Joby Executive Chairman Paul Sciarra, a co-founder of Pinterest, the image-centric wishlist site.

Many other airtaxi startups and electric plane companies

JetBlue has invested in Zunum Aero, which is building an electric jet that can fly dozens of people 1,000 miles. Intel owns a stake in a German air taxi startup called Volocopter GmbH, Wendell Brooks, president of Intel Capital, says Joby “is very far ahead relative to all the other things we’ve seen.”

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