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Eve's ambitions take centre stage in Paris
The vision is to enhance, not replace ground transportation
Some eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) makers have made bold claims that their aircraft will soon be a common sight in city skies.
Critics challenge this transformative vision, pointing to conservative market forecasts suggesting that these “air taxis” will only replace helicopters rather than cars and buses.
At the Paris Air Show, Eve CEO Andre Stein stressed that eVTOLs will not supplant existing ground transportation but rather provide an additional “smart” option for urban mobility.
Eve, backed by Embraer, is on track to achieve certification by 2026. It is partnering with United Airlines to explore electric air taxi services in the polycentric San Francisco Bay Area.
Investment bank JP Morgan called Eve “the main winner” of the Paris Air Show, thanks to an order book that now stands at 2900 aircraft.
Bold promises and sceptical critics: assessing the transformative potential of eVTOL aircraft
In the realm of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, grand promises about the revolutionary potential of electric air taxis have become common.
Companies are vying for attention and investment, projecting a future where these new-age vehicles will be in service by the end of the decade, changing urban transportation as we know it.
For example, in the above video from Supernal, the eVTOL subsidiary of Hyundai, a narrator takes us on a tour of a traffic-congested city.
He points to a world where 30 extra minutes of sleep in the morning will be made possible, where waiting for the bus becomes obsolete, and where urban air taxis whisk office workers away from rooftops. The narrator even tells a school kid that in the future, he’ll be able to fly home.
The video ends with CEO Jaiwon Shin saying:
“Supernal is not just for the privileged few, but many people, including kids like you.”
However, amidst all the buzz and excitement, sceptics have emerged, challenging some of these fantastical sounding claims.
They seized on a very conservative market forecast from Aviation Week, predicting only 1000 eVTOL deliveries by 2030 and 10,000 by 2040. Critics argue that this proves that — instead of replacing cars and buses — eVTOLs will merely replace helicopters and become exclusive toys for the wealthy.
The Supernal/Hyundai vision of children taking air taxis to school may seem reminiscent of a scene from the cartoon show "The Jetsons," rather than a feasible reality.
But perhaps critics are approaching the sector from the wrong perspective.
Urban Air Taxis - a “smarter” travel option
Speaking at the Paris Air Show, Andre Stein, CEO of Embarer-backed Eve, explained that urban air mobility “will not replace ground transportation. It’s not replacing trains or cars.”
Instead, it will provide an additional, affordable, and accessible transportation option. In cities like Paris, Stein said that eVTOLs can be a "smarter way" to travel.
In fact, for eVTOLs to have an impact in a city like Paris, you do not necessarily require thousands of aircraft. Even a few hundred eVTOLs could make a significant difference.
Stein projected that in Paris, 450 eVTOLs could eventually serve 150 routes across 31 "vertiports" (spaces where eVTOLs can take off and land). London meanwhile might have 395 eVTOLs flying from 28 vertiports across 95 routes.
Critics might question whether it’s possible to create the infrastructure to serve 150 routes in a dense urban environment. However, one can quite easily imagine how even a smaller fleet of 100 eVTOLs running shuttles across 20 routes would have a noticeable impact.
Connecting polycentric cities: exploring the use-case for eVTOLs in traffic-heavy areas
Another use case for eVTOLs comes from so-called polycentric cities, where economic activity is spread across a wide urban area.
One example is the San Francisco Bay Area. In the lead up to the Paris Air Show, Eve made headlines by partnering with United Airlines (an investor in Eve). The two companies plan to scope out electric air taxi services in and around San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
This comes as the Bay Area's high level of commuter traffic has made it the 15th most traffic-congested urban area in the world.
Given that each eVTOL can accommodate only four passengers, it is clear that Eve’s aircraft won't be a mass transit solution for commuters from, say, San Francisco to Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.
But you could deploy several dozen eVTOLs on that city centre - Silicon Valley route, offering a completely new mode of transportation. That would be distinct from traditional helicopters that might fly a handful of senior executives every day from the office to the airport.
Why Eve was “the main winner from the Paris Air Show”
Eve is aiming for certification by 2026. Stein confidently stated that the company is on track to meet that goal:
“In an industry where you often hear about delays and postponement, I’m really proud to say that we are on schedule.”
A key reason for this is that Eve has been able to draw on Embraer's 50+ year track record in building and certifying aircraft.
“We are leveraging existing infrastructure for substance support that spans tens of countries around the globe — something that would take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to start from zero.”
At the Paris Air Show, Eve made a number of announcements, obtaining 80 more orders for its aircraft.
Eve also signed an agreement with Widerøe Zero, the innovation arm of Norwegian airline Widerøe, to create an eVTOL network in Scandinavia, which includes connecting Norwegian islands with the mainland.
As a result, investment bank JP Morgan concluded that Eve was the “main winner” of the Paris Air Show. JP Morgan rated Eve’s position as relatively strong thanks to:
An order book that now totals 2900 aircraft valued at $8.6 billion;
A high level of support from parent company Embraer;
The overall eVTOL market opportunity, which JP Morgan puts at $1 trillion by 2040.
The Supernal video presents a compelling vision but it may be difficult to realise. Not only would multiple infrastructure issues need to be addressed, eVTOLs would also have to be mass-produced for it to become a reality.
Here, the sceptics are right. Air taxis almost certainly won’t be a rooftop commuting option for office workers or a replacement for the school bus — at least in the short to medium term.
Eve, however, has a more inclusive vision. It envisions eVTOLs addressing specific commuter challenges, as evidenced by the partnership between Eve and United Airlines to explore electric air taxi services in the traffic-congested San Francisco Bay Area. Or by Widerøe wanting to use eVTOLs to fly to the Norwegian islands.
Eve’s $8.6 billion order book proves that this vision is getting buy-in from a lot of quarters. Though the 2026 launch date is slightly behind that of Volocopter, Archer and Joby (who are all looking to launch in 2024-2025), Eve’s more conservative date may still prove to be the more realistic one.
You may also want to listen to our interview with Adam Goldstein, CEO and Founder of Archer Aviation:
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