Air taxi developer Eve’s move to a public company left hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term financing and engineering support from majority shareholder Embraer.
Eve executives say these factors favorably position the company in pursuing the incredibly difficult and costly process of obtaining certification for a new class of electric aircraft.
Previously an Embraer subsidiary, Eve completed its public offering on May 9 when it merged with the publicly traded shell company Zanite Acquisition.
“We did it with the luxury of a non-leveraged budget and enough capital to go a long way in the certification process,” Eve Co-CEO Gerard DeMuro told FlightGlobal on May 10.
“We have this incredible support from Embraer … this incredible knowledge base and infrastructure,” he adds.
Eve, headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Through its public offering, Eve secured $ 357 million in equity financing, including $ 185 million from Embraer and $ 147 million from a consortium of investors, including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Thales and airlines. US regional Republic Airways and SkyWest, according to Eve.
Embraer owns 90% of Eve’s shares after the transaction, he says.
Eve is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air taxi that will carry four passengers and have a range of 54 nautical miles (100 km), according to documents released by Eve.
It aims to have the aircraft in service by 2026.
Eve claims to have obtained “non-binding letters of intent” from 19 customers to order a total of 1,825 air taxis. These customers include Republic and SkyWest.
Eve flew small scale models of her plane but not a real demonstrator.
“We are in no rush to fly a prototype,” says DeMuro. First, he says, Eve wants to ensure the maturity of the aviation systems and define the details of the certification.
Eve and competing start-ups envision a future where small air taxis will commute for paying passengers on short-distance journeys to congested major cities.
Eve and other players in the so-called urban air mobility market predict that when their air taxi systems are fully developed, the rates will be comparable to those of ground sharing services.
But the business model and technology remain largely unproven, as does the acceptance of the concept by the public and local governments.
Analysts raised doubts about the feasibility of such projects. Richard Aboulafia with AeroDynamic Advisory wondered whether companies will secure enough orders to justify mass production, which he believes they must achieve in order to reduce unit sales prices.
Air taxi developers also face an uncertain road to certification. The companies were working to obtain certification under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 23 rules for small aircraft.
But in recent days, the FAA revealed a change, saying instead it will certify eVTOLs as part of a “special class” process to “address the many novelties” of such aircraft.
The FAA says it doesn’t expect the change to delay certification timelines.
Eve co-CEO André Duarte Stein plays down the FAA change but declines to comment on its potential impact.
He calls the FAA’s new roadmap “slightly different from what the FAA was looking at before,” noting that each certification project faces unique challenges.
“The expectation was always that they would evolve over time as all parties learned more about this class of aircraft,” says Stein of the certification regulations. “The regulatory environment … will evolve more.”
He adds that Embraer’s timeline, being several years behind other air taxi developers, leaves more time to adapt to changing regulations.
Stein also draws attention to what she describes as Eve’s wild card: Embraer’s technical and certification support.
Eve has entered into agreements that give her access to Embraer resources on a “priority basis,” she says.
“We are buying development services from Embraer,” adds Stein. “Having the support of someone who has developed and certified aircraft helps a lot.”