Startups Venture

With Billions In Funding, Electric Flight Space Still Waits To Soar 

Illustration of a flying car.

While stuck in gridlock, who among us has not fantasized of soaring vertically above all the stalled vehicles and flying swiftly to our destination?

For most of us, that dream dissipates once traffic gets moving again. For a dedicated few, however, it’s less a fantasy than a technically feasible proposition. And one that, in some version or other, they’re working diligently to bring to fruition.

In recent years, companies working on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and flying cars have raised unprecedented sums as they move closer to commercializing a vision of air travel without the huge carbon footprint or massive runways.

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with all-in-one prospecting solutions powered by the leader in private-company data.

To get a sense of total investment, we compiled a list of companies in the space that have raised venture funding or gone public in recent years.

We also included companies, such as Larry Page-backed Kitty Hawk, that have not disclosed funding but are known to have deep-pocketed backers.

Below are some companies to watch:

For the full top 25 list, click here.

How feasible is the technology?

While the backyard flying car remains a moonshot-type proposition, the eVTOL aircraft industry is relatively mature by startup standards. Older players in the space have been around a decade or more, and total known equity funding to date is well over $5 billion.

“It’s a question of when, not if,” said Sergio Cecutta, a partner at SMG Consulting who covers the space, regarding future commercial viability of eVTOL technology. He’s bullish in part because of the variety of market applications for the technology, which include military, air taxis, cargo and airport shuttles.

Joby Aviation, the most heavily funded company in the space, said it intends to start operations as an air taxi service beginning in 2024. The California-based company makes a five-seater aircraft that can transport a pilot and four passengers up to 150 miles on a single charge.

Munich-based Lilium, developer of an eVTOL aircraft called the Lilium Jet, also projects it will begin commercial operations in 2024, with launch sites set up in Germany, the United States and Brazil.

Joby, Vermont-based Beta Technologies, and Lilium are the furthest along in SMG Consulting’s AAM Reality Index, which looks to measure across eVTOL progress by analyzing five categories: funding, team experience, technology progress, certification progress and production readiness.

Public offerings plummet, but big deals still happening

Public-market investors like to get an early stake in developers of technologies with potential to massively transform an industry. So, it’s not surprising that at the peak of the 2021 SPAC boom, blank-check acquirers courted marquis names in the eVTOL space, including Joby and Lilium.

But so far, performance of public offerings in the eVTOL space has been quite poor.

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with all-in-one prospecting solutions powered by the leader in private-company data.

Joby has performed particularly badly, with shares recently trading around $4.50, down sharply from the $10 initial SPAC price and well below the all-time high. The company announced plans to go public in February last year, and completed its merger in August.

Shares of Lilium, the German electric flying taxi developer, have sunk even lower, recently hitting around $3.50 each. The company announced plans last March to go public via a SPAC merger and completed the business combination in September.

A rival German air taxi startup, Volocopter, also reportedly explored going public via SPAC last year but subsequently decided not to pursue that route.

Still, the red ink hasn’t deterred another newcomer from eyeing a public listing. In December, Eve, an eVTOL business created by Brazilian aircraft-maker Embraer, announced plans to list on Nasdaq through a merger with blank-check acquirer Zanite Acquisition Corp.

Big private investments continue to pile up as well. The largest this year went to Silicon Valley-based Wisk Aero, developer of an autonomous, all-electric, passenger-carrying aircraft, which announced in January that it secured $450 million from Boeing. Founded in 2010, Wisk,  formerly known as Zee Aero, is also co-owned by Page’s Kitty Hawk.

No commercial revenue yet

One of the reasons eVTOL has been a tough sell for public investors is that there is no commercial revenue yet. Although some companies are generating some business from military customers, Cecutta notes, we’re still awaiting certification for public deployments.

When that happens—likely 2024 at the earliest—investors may have a better chance to re-evaluate. If the real-life version of vertical takeoff air travel flies as well with consumers as the fantasy vision, the industry ought to see some real liftoff.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

Copy link