In a sign that it is embracing an electric aviation future, New York City hosted public flight demonstrations of eVTOL aircraft developed by Joby and Volocopter at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport this week. On Sunday, Joby’s preproduction prototype aircraft became the first eVTOL air taxi to fly in the city, and on Monday Volocopter followed up with a demonstration of its 2X prototype.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) hosted the two-day event along with the city’s mayor, Eric Adams. In a briefing at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport on Monday, Adams announced the city’s plans to electrify the heliport in support of eVTOL operations, which are expected to launch in the city shortly after new eVTOL vehicles begin receiving their FAA type certification in 2025.
“By electrifying one of the most famous heliports in the world, New York is demonstrating global leadership in the adoption of electric air travel,” said Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt. “We plan to make quiet, emissions-free flight an affordable, everyday reality for New Yorkers, while significantly reducing the impact of helicopter noise.”
"We cannot be afraid of the future,” Adams told reporters during the briefing at the heliport. “New York is the city of ‘yes.’ We are going to be faster in a cleaner, greener way, and we are going to help young people make more clean, green dollars.”
In addition to building out infrastructure for electric air taxis, New York City has already begun developing the workforce that will be needed to operate and maintain the vehicles. The city’s Aviation High School, in Queens, has partnered with Joby to teach young aspiring pilots and technicians about electric aviation technologies and train them on Joby’s eVTOL simulators.
Electric air taxi developers like Joby and Archer have said that commercial eVTOL flights would be cost-competitive with ridesharing options on the ground while drastically reducing travel times. For example, according to Joby, a trip from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to JFK International Airport would take seven minutes in an eVTOL air taxi, whereas the same trip takes an average of 49 minutes by car.
Joby has not yet announced any specific routes in New York, but it expects to launch services there together with its partner Delta Air Lines shortly after the vehicle is certified in 2025. Bevirt said the company is working closely with Delta to build out eVTOL infrastructure that is “coupled” with Delta’s terminals at LaGuardia Airport and JFK.
California-based eVTOL Archer Aviation, which was not present for the event in New York City, has previously announced plans to launch an eVTOL air taxi route between the Downtown Manhattan Heliport and Newark Liberty Airport together with United Airlines. But Beta Technologies, an electric aircraft and charging infrastructure developer that recently sold its chargers to Archer, brought one of its mobile charging stations to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to showcase during the event. Joby is developing its own chargers to a different charging standard than Beta's chargers, which most other electric aircraft and ground vehicles will be able to use.
Volocopter, which is based in Germany, has not yet revealed plans for any eVTOL air taxi routes in the U.S., but the company has been showing off its 2X prototype in a series of flight demonstrations across the country over the last couple of months in search of business opportunities. The 2X prototype is a predecessor to Volocopter’s two-seat VoloCity air taxi, which is on track to receive its type certificate from European air safety regulators in time for the 2024 Olympics Games in Paris, where the company expects to perform its first commercial passenger-carrying eVTOL flights.