Joby Aviation, an emerging giant in the electric aviation industry, has been hitting one milestone after another. The company is all geared up to deliver its first electric aircraft to a customer by 2024, and launch a commercial air taxi service by 2025.
In the quaint coastal town of Marina, California, Joby’s pilot production plant, born out of a unique partnership with Toyota, has proudly launched its first eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle). Thanks to a generous $180 million investment from Baillie Gifford, this milestone has brought Joby within touching distance of having a market-ready eVTOL designed for passenger use.
The eVTOL, which happens to be Joby’s third full-scale prototype, has been endorsed with a special airworthiness certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This certification enables the eVTOL to start flight testing.
JoeBen Bevirt, the passionate founder and CEO of Joby, was clearly ecstatic about this development, “This is a momentous occasion for us! We’ve put in years of hard work building our organization’s capabilities and crafting meticulous processes and procedures. Our efforts since 2017 have now borne fruit and we’re ready to embark on the next stage of the certification process.”
With over 30,000 miles of flight experience since 2019 on pre-production prototype aircraft, Joby is inching closer to attaining type certification from the FAA. Such a certification indicates FAA’s seal of approval for Joby’s aircraft design and its compliance with airworthiness and noise standards.
Joby has made considerable headway in the type certification process, as Bevirt points out. Once type certification is done, the next target is production certification, granting Joby the ability to mass produce eVTOLs under FAA-approved designs.
Joby’s ambitions don’t stop here. The company has already received its Part 135 air carrier certificate in May 2022, laying the groundwork to start on-demand commercial air taxi operations.
The production prototype aircraft holds the promise of being the first eVTOL delivered to a customer. According to Joby, it is slated to be deployed at Edwards Air Force Base in 2024, under the $131 million Agility Prime contract with the U.S. Air Force. However, to hit this target, Joby will have to work diligently with the Air Force to secure military airworthiness certification.
Joby’s tryst with Toyota goes beyond mere manufacturing. The Japanese automaker, not only Joby’s largest external investor but also a significant supplier of powertrains and actuation components, has invested nearly $400 million in the company. Toyota’s involvement has been hands-on with a team of engineers working alongside Joby in California, and a separate team in Japan.
The Joby-Toyota partnership has also led to the inclusion of Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, into Joby’s board of directors from July 1. As Joby plans for scaling manufacturing, Bevirt expressed excitement about Ogawa’s addition to the board, recognizing it as a testament to Toyota’s commitment to pioneering the next stage of mobility.
Joby’s involvement with Toyota isn’t merely transactional. They’ve joined forces with Japanese airline ANA to explore the possibilities of launching an air taxi service in Japan, linking air and ground-based transportation.
While Bevirt remains tight-lipped about where Joby plans to kickstart its air taxi operations, he highlights their close relationship with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. This collaboration hints at a strong possibility of Japan being an early beneficiary of Joby’s air taxi service.