German electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi developer Volocopter has raised over $180 million in new funding that it says will help power the company through certification and into its launch of aerial services by mid-decade.
The Bruchsal-based start-up said it had raised $182 million in a second signing of its Series E funding round. Joining its ownership group are Chinese automotive giant Geely Holding’s investment unit, GLy Capital Management, and the Saudi Arabia-backed futuristic smart city Neom. In announcing the development, Volocopter said the new cash infusion will support its work to take its eVTOL VoloCity air taxi craft through the certification process and into expected operation within two years.
Taking a direct stake in Volocopter transforms the previous relationships both newly arrived investors had established with the company. Last year Geely and Volocopter teamed up to form a joint venture working to bring air taxis to China, the promotion of the German manufacturer’s eVTOL craft being central to that.
A few months later, developers of the futuristic sustainable city project Neom tapped Volocopter to create a tailor-made eVTOL air taxi and aerial management system for integration into its wider multimodal, zero-emission public transit network.
Funded by Saudi Arabia, Neom is conceived to be a cutting-edge smart city spanning the Saudi-Egyptian border, covering 26,500 square kilometers along the 460-kilometer strip of the Red Sea coast. The first tranche of the estimated $500 billion urban project is slated for completion somewhere around 2025.
Its reinforcement of ties with Saudi Arabian state entities has to calm any nerves that may have been jangled at Volocopter last week by the national airline linking up with eVTOL rival Lilium to establish air taxi services to Saudi airports for premium customers.
Volocopter chief commercial officer Christian Bauer called the transformation of its two strategic partners into part-owners a major show of confidence in the company’s abilities to lead the global effort to certify eVTOL craft and launch air taxi operations.
“Raising over $180 million despite the generally tense economic climate highlights Volocopter’s robust technology strategy and its ongoing progress toward achieving market readiness,” Bauer said. “We appreciate the remarkable spirit of collaboration and the trust that our existing and new shareholders have placed in us as we forge ahead on our journey to bring the urban air mobility ecosystem to life.”
Volocopter has a three-pronged vehicle approach to pursuing next-generation aircraft transportation.
Its VoloCity eVTOL will serve as a two-seat air taxi on relatively short urban routes. It is expected to go into initial service during the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics and then be introduced in other large global cities, including Singapore and Rome.
The company is also working on the VoloRegion plane to fly up to four passengers to longer destinations within its 100 km flight range. Transport of goods, meanwhile, will be entrusted to its VoloDrone, a versatile UAV that can carry up to 100 kg of payload.