Vertical Aerospace says it has secured a pre-delivery payment from Japanese trading and investment conglomerate Marubeni Corporation for 25 VX4 eVTOL aircraft, making the leasing group Vertical’s first customer in Asia to back its VX4 orders with a down payment.
In September 2021, Marubeni conditionally agreed to purchase up to 200 of the four-passenger eVTOL aircraft, which Vertical expects to deliver in 2025. Marubeni’s undisclosed pre-delivery payment covers the first 25 of those units and secures their delivery slots.
When Marubeni placed those conditional pre-orders in 2021, the company also signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly evaluate what it would take to launch eVTOL operations in Japan with Vertical Aerospace.
Vertical, a UK-based startup, plans to have the VX4 operating in Japan in time for the Osaka-Kansai World Expo in 2025, where the aircraft could provide air taxi services for attendees of the six-month-long event. Organizers of the event are expected to publicly announce the eVTOL operators selected to participate in the event by the end of January.
“Japan is a wonderful country that is embracing the promise of eVTOL, as it will connect cities and regions like never before,” said Vertical Aerospace founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick. “We look forward to our joint efforts to build the ecosystem for zero-emissions travel in Japan.”
“I am confident that our continued joint efforts with Vertical Aerospace, such as evaluating the requirements for eVTOL operations and engaging the potential partners under the joint working group, together with this new agreement, will accelerate the development of the AAM market in Japan,” added Satoshi Takechi, the general manager of Marubeni’s department of aviation, space and defense. “Marubeni will further enhance activities to materialize our business, which aims to make air travel more accessible and convenient, while simultaneously contributing to climate change mitigation measures, including low-carbon and decarbonization initiatives.”
Vertical’s VX4 is a fully electric eVTOL aircraft that can carry four passengers plus one pilot on trips of around 100 miles (160 kilometers) on a single charge, while traveling at a top speed of 202 mph (325 km/h). Its design features a fixed-wing aircraft with tilting rotors, and Vertical says it will be 100 times quieter in flight than a helicopter. The VX4 completed its first hover flight test in September 2022.
Vertical is working on concurrently certifying the VX4 with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and EASA. The company expects to achieve type certification in 2024, with the first deliveries to follow in 2025. So far, other VX4 customers include American Airlines (which has made prepayments for its first 50 deliveries), Virgin Atlantic, FlyingGroup, and Avalon.