Volocopter today announced plans to bring a larger, longer-range eVTOL aircraft into operation by 2026 to serve markets beyond those addressed by its VoloCity model. The all-electric VoloConnect will have four seats, with a range of up to 60 miles and a cruise speed of 110 mph (rising to a top speed of around 155 mph).
Unveiling the new lift-and-push concept during the EBACE Connect event, the German company said its engineering team, led by chief engineer Sebastian Mores, has been working on the design for more than two years and has filed several patents for the technology used. The aircraft features a wing connected to a V-shaped tail by a pair of parallel beams supporting six sets of electric motors and rotors. To the rear of the fuselage, there is a pair of ducted fans to support cruise flight.
Like the two-seat VoloCity, Volocopter intends to certify the VoloConnect under EASA’s new Special Conditions-VTOL rules. The VoloCity is limited to a range of just 22 miles and a speed of 60 mph. The company is also developing an autonomous freight-carrying version called the VoloDrone, which will have the same performance in terms of range and payload. All three models will feature batteries that can be quickly swapped between flights, but the company has yet to demonstrate this capability.
Among immediate competitors, the VoloConnect is closest to Archer's planned eVTOL, which is expected to have a range of 60 miles and a maximum speed of 150 mph. Both Joby and Lilium are promising increased performance of, respectively, 150 miles/200mph and 155 miles/175 mph.
“We can now cover all segments of the $290 billion urban air mobility market,” Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter told reporters. “We will offer a seamless end-to-end customer experience through our VoloIQ digital platform.”
Volocopter sees the VoloCity aircraft accounting for $110 billion in revenues from urban services by 2035, with the VoloConnect operations between cities bringing in an additional $60 billion. The company anticipates that the VoloDrone will generate $120 billion in revenues by the time, including $50 billion from “on-site transport,” $30 billion from “urban parcel” deliveries, and $40 billion for flights in remote areas.
Reuter confirmed that the company aims for the smaller VoloCity aircraft to begin commercial operations before the end of 2023, with Paris and Singapore still likely to be the cities in which its air taxi services launch. He said the company has ambitions to build and operate as many as 100,000 aircraft. According to Reuter, the VoloCity has sufficient range to offer connections between 93 of the world's top 100 airports and their respective city centers.
Earlier this year, Volocopter raised a further $240 million in its latest private funding round, taking its total capital raised since its launch in 2011 to almost $400 million. “We see huge interest, including from the public investment community, and we are confident we can raise the necessary [further] funding,” Reuter said. “We are having interesting conversations with numerous investors for different [investment] routes.”
Several of Volocopter’s rival eVTOL developers have announced plans to raise significant amounts of funding through initial public offerings via mergers with special purpose acquisition companies. Volocopter has long been rumored to be considering this approach as well.
Volocopter says it will work with partners to develop vertiports and other ground infrastructure. Initially, it intends to operate from existing heliports, having added recharging facilities.
For the most part, Volocopter intends to retain direct control of commercial operations. However, Reuter indicated that in some markets it may work with partners, such as in China where the country's Geely automotive group is one of its financial backers.
The VoloConnect is the company's fifth-generation eVTOL design, following on from earlier iterations including the VC200 and the 2X. Initially, the aircraft will be operated with a pilot on board, but Volocopter intends to transition to autonomous operations once the regulatory environment will support this move.