United adds Eve Mobility as AAM partner in multimillion-dollar deal

FAA advanced aviation

United Airlines is making it clear it believes in the kind of next-generation advanced air mobility (AAM) craft that will provide inner-urban and even intracity transportation in coming years, but its new $15 million investment in air taxi developer Eve is also an indication it won’t be keeping its relationships with sector start-ups exclusive.

United revealed the deal on Thursday, saying it had invested $15 million into Embraer’s AAM unit Eve and agreed to a conditional purchase of 200 of its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) airplanes. The agreement also calls for the two companies to work together to prepare for services provided by sustainable aircraft under development, including examining the development, use, and operation of Eve vehicles in the urban air mobility ecosystems set to soon blossom around the globe.

Though Eve is still developing its aircraft toward the prototype phase, its work thus far convinced United to stump up for a couple hundred of the four-seat planes and take an option on a further 200. Initial deliveries are slated for as soon as 2026. The agreement comes in the wake of a rash of deals Eve revealed in July and marks another major business milestone for the firm.

Read moreEmbraer’s Eve air taxi unit racks up UAM deals at Farnborough airshow 

But while that significant financial commitment is a clear indication of United’s conviction that next-generation craft will be critical in the future of air transport, its investment in Eve served as further notice that its earlier – and deep – relationship with AAM rival Archer Aviation won’t be exclusive.

Just last month, United transferred a $10 million “pre-payment” to Archer as part of their 2021 eVTOL transaction. That called for the airline to buy 100 air taxis for an estimated value of $1 billion. The ties between the two companies have deepened over time. For example, United became a major direct investor as part of Archer’s public stock flotation a year ago, during which it took an option for another $500 million worth of planes. 

Since then, the pair have worked together in advancing Archer’s eVTOL aircraft through the ongoing certification process and preparing its eventual launch into air taxi and other AAM services. That included the companies forming a joint advisory committee that, among other things, will oversee the creation of a maintenance and operational system for Archer aircraft by leveraging the assets and experience United has built up through decades of passenger air transport activity.

Read: United Airlines makes major investment in electric passenger planes 

Despite those considerable mutual bonds, United’s AAM investment in Eve probably did not come to Archer as a surprise, with the airline having given previous signs it was keeping its AAM options open. Indeed, in July of last year, the company announced it had ordered 100 19-seat electric aircraft from Swedish start-up Heart Aerospace while also making an investment of an undisclosed amount.

As then, United now explained its agreement with Eve as part of its spreading investment and industrial relationships within the diverse and rapidly developing AAM sector

“United has made early investments in several cutting-edge technologies at all levels of the supply chain, staking out our position as a leader in aviation sustainability and innovation,” said Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures. “Today, United is making history again, by becoming the first major airline to publicly invest in two eVTOL companies. Our agreement with Eve highlights our confidence in the urban air mobility market and serves as another important benchmark toward our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – without using traditional offsets.”

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