EHang is pressing ahead with development of a larger, longer-range eVTOL aircraft, today confirming plans to start flight testing of a new passenger-carrying model called the VT30 on May 25. The VT30 will combine multiple rotors and a fixed wing to offer a range of around 300 km (186 miles) and be part of a VT family of aircraft to be marketed alongside the all-electric EH216, which can only operate up to around 22 miles on a full battery charge. The new types will also include a smaller, autonomous model called the VT10.
In a call to announce year-end financial results for 2020, EHang also announced plans to introduce a new piloted version of the fully autonomous EH216. It said that it aims to secure an experimental certificate to start flying the EH216M in China in May.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has established a dedicated team to handle the type certification of EHang’s EH216 eVTOL aircraft. The agency confirmed that its Central South Bureau gave the team clearance to proceed during an April 14 meeting in Guangzhou attended by aviation safety inspectors, certification engineers, and experts from various Chinese aviation bodies and universities.
EHang has previously indicated that the two-seat, all-electric EH216 might complete certification in China before the end of 2021, but it avoided committing to a specific timeline in today’s investor call. In December 2020, the company submitted its type certification application for the autonomous vehicle to the CAAC and says that the agency formally accepted it in January.
According to EHang, CAAC chief engineer Shijun Yin last week led a delegation of agency officials to visit the company’s headquarters. They were shown EHang’s research and development center, the command and control center that has been running various trial operations in Guangzhou, as well as testing and production facilities.
Announcing 2020 financial results today, EHang reported that it sold a further 70 examples of the uncertified EH216 vehicles, representing a 15 percent increase over 2019. Revenues totaled RMB 180 million ($27.6 million), with a gross adjusted profit of RMB 108.6 million.
Revenues come from a mix of aerial media solutions, which mainly involve light shows using its drones, and air mobility solutions. The latter income source was not clearly defined in the annual report, and it is unclear whether it includes payments already made for sales of EH216 to several partners in China and other countries.
According to EHang’s chief strategy officer Edward Xu, the company plans to transition its business model from aircraft sales to an operating approach under which it would generate revenues from providing a full array of urban air mobility services. He said that production rates for the EH216 will significantly increase this year with the opening of its new manufacturing facility.
The company said it will launch a "100 Air Mobility Routes Initiative" in China to support this business model. It expects to roll this out over the next 24 months, with initial services focused around Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.