United Airlines is betting that electric air taxis will soon be speeding around U.S. cities.
The carrier on Thursday announced that it is investing $15 million in Eve Air Mobility, which makes flying e-taxis designed for short commutes in urban areas or to get to the airport. The investment comes after United last month put down a $10 million deposit on 100 similar aircraft made by California-based electric air taxi maker Archer.
The $15 million will cover 200 of Eve's four-seat flying taxis, also known as electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles, or eVTOLS. Under the agreement, United will have the option to purchase 200 additional vehicles, with the first deliveries arriving in 2026.
Instead of using traditional combustible engines, eVTOL aircraft use electric motors that deliver carbon-free flights. That promises to reduce pollution, noise levels and congestion, according to a joint announcement from United and Eve. The airline said the investment will help realize its goal of cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
"Our agreement with Eve highlights our confidence in the urban air mobility market and serves as another important benchmark toward our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — without using traditional offsets," Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, a venture firm aimed at decarbonizing air travel, said in a statement. "Together, we believe our suite of clean energy technologies will revolutionize air travel as we know it and serve as the catalyst for the aviation industry to move toward a sustainable future."
Eve co-CEO Andre Stein said the company's taxis will offer United customers "a quick, economical and sustainable way to get to its hub airports and commute in dense urban environments."
The Eve aircraft is envisioned to have a range of 40 to 60 miles. Future designs might be slightly bigger than the planned four-seater, but they would not replace any planes that United flies from one airport to another, so they won't reduce carbon emissions produced by the airline's regular fleet.
Eve Holding, based in Melbourne, Florida, is a publicly traded company formed this year by a combination of a special purpose acquisition company called Zanite and a unit of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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