Santa Cruz, California-based Joby Aviation completed the longest test flight of an eVTOL to date as its unnamed full-size prototype aircraft completed a trip of more than 150 miles on a single charge, it said. the company on Monday.
The test was completed at Joby’s Electric Flight Base in Big Sur, California, earlier this month. It is the latest in a series of secret tests the company has been running, all as part of its goal of achieving certification with the Federal Aviation Administration and beginning business operations.
The prototype spent over an hour and 17 minutes in the air and covered 154.6 statute miles on a single battery charge, traveling along a predefined circuit. While the test flight was remotely piloted by Joby’s chief test pilot Justin Paines, the company plans to have pilots on the aircraft when it opens its ridesharing service for customers.
Led by JoeBen Bevirt, Joby Aviation has spent the last twelve years designing eVTOL – an electric vertical take-off and landing craft that rises like a helicopter but flies like an airplane, and is magnitudes quieter than both.
Joby is one of a number of startups looking to make electric air travel a reality for the average American. The company’s website features a helpful graphic showing a proposed trip from Los Angeles airport to Newport Beach – over an hour and 44 miles by car, but only 15 minutes and 35 miles with Joby. Joby aims to make those trips a reality by 2024, and tests like these are an important signal to the public, investors and regulators that it is on track to meet that schedule.
Significantly, the company uses commercially available lithium-ion batteries that are adapted for air travel, so this test flight is also proof that its battery technology is up to the challenge. It’s a complicated challenge – the battery needs to have enough energy density to fly around 150 miles while still having enough power to take off and land vertically. But Joby says he has come up with a specific combination of cathode and graphite anode to achieve these goals.
In addition to being one of the oldest eVTOL developers, Joby is also the best funded, raising nearly $ 800 million in funding to date. That includes a $ 75 million investment from Uber after Joby bought its air taxi arm, Elevate, and a $ 400 million investment from Toyota Motor Corp. Joby goes public. through a merger with special-purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners, a business combination that will inject an additional $ 1.6 billion in capital into the startup.
It’s a lot of money, but designing and marketing a novel aircraft is a costly business – by some estimates, it costs up to a billion dollars in total.
“We have accomplished something that many thought impossible with current battery technology,” Bevirt said in a statement. “In doing so, we have taken the first step in making convenient, emission-free air travel between places like San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, Houston and Austin, or Los Angeles and San Diego a daily reality.”
See a video about the test flight here: