Accessibility and affordability are at the heart of Joby Aviation’s ambitions as the company sets out its plans to roll out urban transportation services from 2024.

Max Fenkell, Policy and Government Affairs Lead for Joby Aviation gave an update on the progress of the all-electric eVTOL: “Over the past few years we’ve really been working hard on the design and working with the FAA and regulators around the world on the certification of our aircraft. We’re on track to be commercially operational in 2024. What that means is that around that time, when we launch in the cities, we’ll be able to bring a quiet accessible, affordable form of air travel to them in ways that haven’t been done before.”

He added that the aim of the eVTOL was to allow people to travel at “an affordable price point so that it is truthfully creating a new democratised form of air travel.”

eVTOL journeys could scale down to surface transportation prices

Fenkel said that as well as being emissions-free, Joby’s new aviation would enable affordable travel which could eventually be on par with existing land-based travel options. He explained: “Electric’s amazing in so many different ways, one of which is that it creates zero operating emissions. We have to worry about the life cycle and we have ways that we’re looking at to do that but then the affordability as well. So with an electric system, the operating cost comes way down as well as the maintenance design cost. If you look at the design of the aircraft, it’s very different than a traditional combustion engine design. It’s more analogous to how an electric vehicle in the automobile world is designed, versus a traditional car, and so the maintenance comes down as well.”

Fenkell said that the lower costs would be passed onto consumers: “We’re going to launch at around US$3 dollars per passenger mile which is on par with Uber Black (luxury car with professional driver) prices and then, over time, be able to scale that with the system down to be cheaper and eventually on par with surface transportation.”

Company would initially make use of general aviation infrastructure

In terms of infrastructure, Fenkell said that the company would initial make use of existing infrastructure for general aviation within the UK and US. He cited around 5,080 general aviation airports within the US and 2,000 in the UK, along with existing helipads.

He explained: “What that means, on day one we have a lot of really good infrastructure for our airplanes to get off the ground and carry passengers. Over time because of the noise profile… we think we’re going to be able to permit infrastructure closer where people want to live and work because it’s going to be an accessible service that people are going to want.”

Fenkell said the FAA had already released a UAM draft engineering brief for Vertiports and EASA was also working through guidance. He added that once standards and permits were available, Joby Aviation would be able to work with cities, states and localities to provide services near to where people live and work.
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