Startup Volocopter of German air taxi raised € 50 million ($ 55.3 million) in a financing round led by Geely, the Chinese parent company of Volvo Cars, announced the company. The new funds will be used to achieve Volocopter's goal of launching a commercial air taxi service powered by its 18-rotor electric aircraft within the next three years.
In addition to leading this series C financing round, Geely is also entering into a joint venture with Volocopter to bring the start-up aircraft to China. Volocopter has held a handful of public demonstrations of its electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL), most recently at the Helsinki airport.
Geely is not the only large company (or automaker) with an interest in Volocopter. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, invested $ 30 million in 2017. Shortly thereafter, Intel announced it would provide technical support to the German startup.
Volocopter's ability to attract attention and money from so many bold names is remarkable because electric flights are extremely difficult to do – some would even say impossible in a commercial sense. Flying requires an incredible amount of energy and current battery technology simply does not offer the power / weight ratio that is required to rise. Most experts predict that it will take years, if not decades, before the battery technology can catch up.
That is probably the reason why Volocopter thinks its planes only fly over short distances. The 2X prototype – that with 18 rotors – has a flight time of 30 minutes and a maximum range of 27 km (17 miles), although Volocopter says the batteries can be changed quickly to compensate for those numbers until technology improves.
Volocopter unveiled the Volocity, the fourth generation eVTOL aircraft. The VoloCity has slightly better specifications than the 2X, with an estimated range of 35 km (or approximately 22 miles) and a flight speed of 110 km / h (or approximately 68 mph). The company envisages a network of "Volo ports" on the roof, where up to 1,000 passengers can get in and out of their own personal "flying taxi" every hour. That translates to 10,000 passengers per station per day, the company claims.
With the last secured round, Volocopter says it has raised € 85 million ($ 94 million) so far. The company says it is in talks with investors about closing a fourth round by the end of the year.