The Air Taxi Startup Lilium Has Raised $240M Despite the Coronavirus Crisis
Lilium has raised $240M for the industrialization of the eVTOL, that pretend to self-build. The company wants to deliver an air taxi service by 2025.
The startup, based in Munich, is designing and building VTOL aircrafts with speeds of up to 62 mph. It plans to operate its own float of air taxis. To achieve so, it is raising its last financing round in order to further develop its aircraft. And, to start building manufacturing facilities to produce more aircrafts by the time it launches its service in 2025.
“We’re working to deliver a brand-new form of emissions-free transport” said a spokesperson. “Doing something like that takes significant time and investment, but the outcome is a valuable business and a chance to have a genuinely positive impact on the way we travel.”
This latest investment has been an internal round, involving previous investors, not new ones, and it closed last month. It was led by Tencent, with the participation of other previous sponsors that included Atomico, Freigeist and LGT. The valuation has not been revealed. The company has only confirmed that it is “significantly higher” than it was in its B Series in 2017.
However, raising money hasn’t been the only challenge. Earlier this month, the oldest of the two prototypes of Lilium burst into flames while maintenance was being carried out. The model was near to being retired, but the testing of a newer second model has stopped until the company can determine the cause of the accident with the first aircraft. “Our second demonstrator aircraft was fortunately undamaged in the fire and will begin flight testing once we’ve understood the cause of the fire in the first aircraft,” a spokesperson said.
This is severe blow to the company, especially as there is a lot of competition in this emerging sector. Volocopter, EHang, Wisk and others have embarked on the adventure. Like Boeing, Airbus and Hyundai. In addition to Blade and Skyryse, air taxi services which offer more conventional helicopters and other aircraft in limited launches for those willing to invest that money
The market for aircraft-based taxi services, whether electric, autonomous or both, is still very incipient. There are no approved aircraft on the market yet (in fact, regulations in that respect have not even been created), and as a result, there are no services in operation yet.
However, the opportunity, to build fast services that can reduce the current traffic jams while reducing CO2 emissions, is potentially massive. That is why there is a lot of activity and investment from many places, as companies expect that their decisions make the difference to solve this challenge.
It is unclear how much of these services will be sold in the months and years to come, particularly, at a difficult time to travel and for the economy in general. So far, the work done by Lilium, which was founded in 2015 by Daniel Wiegand (CEO), Sebastian Born, Matthias Meiner and Patrick Nathen, has been promising enough. Hence, investors are willing to keep supporting the company in the long term.