Flying cars are coming…maybe

People have been talking about flying cars for over a century. SPACs may bring them to life.


April 12, 2021

Coming to a neighbourhood near you (Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Peter Thiel famously quipped: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”

The early Facebook investor and Palantir co-founder was bemoaning how the tech industry was busy churning out consumer apps instead of the true innovations we were promised from yesteryears.

Turns out 2021 is a rebuttal to Thiel’s quote

As reported by The Economist, as many as 300 companies are working on “short-range battery-powered craft that take off and land vertically.”

Translation: flying cars.

Morgan Stanley forecasts the industry could be worth $674B by 2040.

More recently, a number of flying taxi startups, dubbed eVTOL (electric vertical take off and landing), have reached public markets via special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs):

  • Lilium: A 7-seater electric jet valued at ~$3B
  • Archer Aviation: Currently valued at $3.8B with plans — per The Economist — for a fully autonomous version
  • Joby Aviation: A 4-seater backed by Uber (and using some of its tech) is valued at ~$7B

There are still a number of issues…

… for cost, regulation, and hardware to be solved before we’ll see eVTOLs buzzing around.

Here’s how the startups are differentiating themselves from:

  • Cabs: They can travel 4-5x faster than car transportation (read: no traffic)
  • Helicopters: The electric motors are quieter than choppers, and they only need a small patch of grass to land on

The Economist writes that the Federal Aviation Administration is working with a number of the companies to get them certified to fly, while Archer has already secured a $1B deal with United Airlines to ferry passengers.

Take that, Peter Thiel.

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