The Next Phase at Joby

You might know Joby Aviation as a pioneer in the development of novel aircraft enabled by electric propulsion. For a number of years, Joby did important aerodynamics work with NASA and others on projects such as the X-57 Maxwell and LEAPTech.

What you might not know is that for nearly a decade the company has also been working on a vehicle to achieve a specific mission: to enable a transportation service that saves people an hour a day in their day-to-day travel.

We’ve been working toward a future where you can book a flight on one of our vehicles with one click. It’ll pick you up from a nearby vertiport and fly you safely to your destination. You’ll get there at least five times faster than driving, with zero emissions.

This is an ambitious goal, and we think about tackling it in three distinct steps.

First, we’ll build the right vehicle. Second, we’ll use that vehicle to enable an air-transportation service. Third, we’ll scale that service—increasing manufacturing volume, driving utilization, and increasing available infrastructure—to steadily lower prices for passengers.

We are now squarely focused on the first step. We’re in the hard business of vehicle development because the right vehicle is the linchpin to opening up a new market for short-hop air transportation.

To us, the right vehicle is one that delivers on the following goals:

  • Unparalleled safety through redundant systems
  • Low noise
  • Range and speed optimized for moving multiple people quickly to and from their destinations

Getting each of these right is critical. If vehicle is too loud, it won’t be able to take off and land where it’s most convenient for passengers. If range is too short, it will be limited to only a small percentage of trips. If speed is too slow, it won’t save people enough time.

Our team has made significant progress on a vehicle that achieves these targets over the past four years. After building and flight-testing one of the world’s first full-scale, all-electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicle prototypes, we’re now developing a commercial version of that design and preparing that vehicle for certification. Our most recent funding round will help accelerate that effort.

We expect to have more news to share soon on our vehicle development progress and related areas—including aircraft routing, ground infrastructure, and pilot training and support. Of course, if you are excited about these goals and interested in joining our team, please check out our open positions here.

Before we end, however, we want to spend a moment on the costs of vehicle and the cost of trips.

One of the common questions around eVTOL vehicles is: can these flights be affordable?

It’s natural to think about our vehicle—and this new class of eVTOL vehicles, more generally—in the way we now think about helicopters or private planes: as something used by the affluent.

How can we make the economics work so that these vehicles can be accessible to everyone?

Here’s how we think about it:

Fuel costs and other operating expenses (like maintenance and depreciation) are a significant component of air travel costs. A small, efficient helicopter on a short, 25mi trip can use more than $40 in fuel. Our fully-electric vehicle can cover the same distance at twenty times lower energy cost with significant reductions in other operating expenses. That savings can be delivered directly to customers.

While our vehicle may be more expensive on a per-unit basis than traditional combustion planes or helicopters, the end-cost to customers can be lower if the vehicle is both high-capacity and highly-utilized. This is how existing commercial airlines are able to drive down costs. They keep their vehicles filled, and moving a lot of people most of the time. As a result, they can spread the fixed costs of the vehicle and the variable costs of pilots and maintenance over a larger number of passenger trips at progressively lower ticket prices.

Finally, we can drive down cost (and improve pickup times too) by scaling manufacturing, putting more vehicles into service, and operating from steadily more takeoff-and-landing locations.

It’s going to take a lot of work to get these right—and it all starts with the vehicle.

However, if we do, we believe we can offer point-to-point transportation that is significantly better than driving and steadily more affordable over time. What’s especially exciting is that the feedback loop is a positive one in a number of ways: it delivers progressively better service to customers, steadily lower fares and shifts an ever greater percentage of trips to zero-emissions vehicles.

—The Joby Team