California-based Archer Aviation announced today that it's entering into an agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, partnering with the automaker to manufacture electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, popularly known as flying cars.
The aircraft manufacturer is currently developing what it calls "the world's first all-electric airline" built around a composite aircraft powered by a 187-kWh battery pack -- or about 143 usable kWh, accounting for battery health reserves. The aircraft is designed for a 60-mile range operating at speeds up to 150 miles per hour. The short-ish range, quieter-than-combustion electric operation and eVTOL capabilities mean we're talking about an urban air mobility vehicle aimed at shuttling passengers across town and above traffic, not between cities -- more "air taxi" than than "airline."
Through the announced partnership, Archer will "benefit from access to FCA's low-cost supply chain, advanced composite material capabilities, and engineering and design experience." In fact, the two companies have already collaborated on the design of the aircraft's cockpit, which Archer says we can expect to see revealed along with the rest of the electric craft sometime in early 2021. The company expects production to kick off in 2023.
Urban aerial services are lining up to be big business in the future, but so far have been slow to get off of the ground. Even Uber, perhaps the most visible cheerleader of the tech, has sold off its Elevate flying taxi business according to a report in December, exiting the urban air mobility game before even getting off of the ground. Having FCA as the wind beneath its wings likely gives Archer an advantage over other urban air mobility startups in the race to build, certify and deliver flying taxis, but it is also racing against established aeronautics players like Airbus, Bell, Boeing and Embraer. Only time will tell which, if any, will be the first to take flight.