Billing itself as a “global mobility company,” Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. has announced a partnership with and a $394 million investment in startup eVTOL aircraft developer Joby Aviation. The investment, which was made public on January 15, makes Toyota the lead investor in Joby’s $590 million Series C financing round.
“Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights to the sky,” Toyota president and CEO Akio Toyoda said. “As we take up the challenge of air transportation together with Joby, an innovator in the emerging eVTOL space, we tap the potential to revolutionize future transportation and life. Through this new and exciting endeavor, we hope to deliver freedom of movement and enjoyment to customers everywhere, on land, and now, in the sky.”
Under the partnership, Toyota executive vice president Shigeki Tomoyama will join Joby’s board of directors while the carmaker will leverage its expertise in manufacturing, quality, and cost controls for the development and production of Joby’s aircraft, a piloted, four-passenger eVTOL.
Toyota’s investment and expertise are expected to accelerate the development and certification of Joby’s eVTOL. “This collaboration with Toyota represents an unprecedented commitment of money and resources for us and this new industry from one of the world’s leading automakers,” Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said. “Toyota is known globally for the quality and reliability of their products driven by meticulous attention to detail and manufacturing processes.”
Previous investors that participated in the Series C fundraising include SPARX Group, Intel Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, and AME Cloud Ventures. They were joined by two new investors: Baillie Gifford and Global Oryx. Joby’s investment funding, including previous rounds, now totals $720 million.
Its all-electric-powered aircraft features six sets of propellers—four mounted on the wings and two aft—with a cabin optimized for ride-sharing operations and easy passenger ingress and egress. Capable of reaching a speed of 200 mph, it will have a range of 150 miles on a single charge. It also will be 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing, and nearly silent in forward flight, Joby claims.
The aircraft has been designated as the S4 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Joby, which was formed back in 2009. Joby is one of eight manufacturing partners selected by rideshare group Uber for its planned Uber Air service. On December 20, 2019, the two companies announced a partnership under which Joby will begin operations with the aircraft.