Fiat Chrysler teams with startup Archer to build an electric air taxi

The planned eVTOL craft would cruise at 150 MPH for up to 60 miles

Archer Aviation is one of many startups trying to build an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, among Volocopter, Hyundai, Lilium and many others. The startup just boosted its standing, however, as it has announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Archer plans to build a composite eVTOL aircraft capable of traveling 150 mph for distances up to 60 miles. FCA will provide access to its “low-cost supply chain, advanced composite material capabilities and engineering and design experience,” according to Archer. The aim is to unveil the electric aircraft design in 2021 and start manufacturing in 2023.

Archer has only released a teaser image of the aircraft, showing a sleek six-prop, V-tail design. Presumably, the wings or individual engines rotate to allow for both VTOL and decent forward travel speeds. The design differs from others we’ve seen like Lilium’s aircraft, which has the propulsive fans hidden in the wings. It’s also nothing like the drone-type designs from Volocopter, Joby and Hyundai. It does look a bit like Larry Page’s “Cora” air taxi, however.

Archer said it’s been “hyper-focused” on the customer part of the design, aiming to offer “increased safety while producing minimal noise” compared to helicopters. “Now, we are working with a seasoned, industry-leading automotive partner... to produce thousands of aircraft reliably and affordably every single year,” said co-founder and co-CEO Brett Adcock.

All passenger aircraft must pass a rigorous FAA certification process that’s daunting even for experienced companies like Boeing, and it’s still not clear how “thousands” of air taxis would fit into the current air traffic control system. On top of that, so far we’ve seen zero eVTOL aircraft that look ready for human transport or mass production.

Written by Steve Dent for Engadget.

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