Volocopter is forming a joint venture with Chinese automotive group Geely Technology, which is one of the leading investors in the German eVTOL aircraft developer. The partners intend to cooperate to advance plans to launch air taxi services in Chinese cities, such as Chengdu and Chongqing.
This week, Geely exhibited an example of Volocopter’s 2X eVTOL vehicle at the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition. The 2X has been used as a technology demonstrator for the VoloCity aircraft with which it intends to launch commercial services by 2024 in locations such as Singapore. It will remain in China and may be used for test flights in the country.
Initially, the joint venture, for which the partners have applied for a Chinese business license, will be between Geely Technology Group and Volocopter. Geely has a new general aviation subsidiary in China called Aerofugia, which recently took over the development of the Transition flying car from U.S. company Terrafugia, which Geely acquired in late 2017. Aerofugia is also supposed to be working on a four-seat eVTOL aircraft called the TF-2A, but the company has declined to provide any update on this program.
According to Volocopter, it will offer more details on the composition and goals of the new joint venture at a future date. It did not confirm whether the venture will directly involve Aerofugia or what it will be called.
However, Aerofugia CEO Charlie Jing was quoted in today’s announcement and implied that his company will constitute the main Chinese element of the partnership. “Together [with Volocopter], we will have both the technology and the means to launch urban air mobility ecosystems in Chinese cities,” he commented.
In March, Volocopter raised a further €200 million ($240 million) through a Series D funding round that took total investment to €322 million. Along with groups such as Daimler, DB Schenker, BlackRock, and Intel Capital, Geely is one of the company’s biggest investors.
According to Volocopter, it is already in contact with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) regarding plans to secure local type certification for the VoloCity. “We are very happy to see that, after many years of negotiation, the European Union and the People’s Republic of China were able to enter a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement for a tailored reciprocal validation of type certificates between EASA and CAAC, positively affecting our entry into the market,” a spokeswoman told FutureFlight.
In China, Volocopter and its local partner will face direct competition from EHang, whose EH216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle is also a two-seat vehicle intended for short trips within cities. Both aircraft have a range of up to around 22 miles.
“Geely’s market leadership in China and forward-thinking approach to expanding mobility options make them a great strategic investor,” said Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. “They are an invaluable partner for bringing urban air mobility to China–one of the most promising markets for urban air mobility globally.”