United Airlines announced its plans to add Electric Aircraft taxis to its operation by fiscal 2026. The move is part of the airline’s broader effort to invest in emerging technologies that combat climate change and decarbonize air travel.
The company is teaming with Archer Aviation, an air mobility company that makes electric vertical takeoff and landing or eVTOL aircraft, to accelerate production of advanced, short-haul electric aircraft.
Rather than relying on traditional combustion engines, Archer’s eVTOL aircraft are designed to use electric motors and have the potential for future use as an “air taxi” in urban markets. Archer’s current aircraft can travel distances of up to 60 miles at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour and future models will be designed to travel faster and further.
Under the deal terms, United will contribute its airspace management expertise to assist Archer with the development of battery-powered, short-haul aircraft.
Once the aircraft are in operation, and after meeting United’s operating and business requirements, the airline and Mesa Airlines would acquire a fleet of up to 200 of these electric aircraft.
The new fleet of aircraft, operated by a partner, is expected to give customers a quick, economical and low-carbon way to get to United’s hub airports and commute in dense urban environments within the next five years.
United CEO Scott Kirby said, “Archer’s eVTOL design, manufacturing model and engineering expertise has the clear potential to change how people commute within major metropolitan cities all over the world.”
United estimates that using Archer’s eVTOL aircraft could reduce CO2 emissions by 47 percent per passenger on a trip between Hollywood and Los Angeles International Airport, one of the initial cities where Archer plans to launch its fleet.
Archer plans to unveil its full scale eVTOL aircraft in 2021, begin aircraft production in 2023, and launch consumer flights in 2024.
United aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent by 2050.
The airline was an early stage investor in Fulcrum BioEnergy and recently partnered with 1PointFive, a joint venture between Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and Rusheen Capital.
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