Joby Aviation Partners with Japan’s All Nippon Airways

The California-based electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) developer and All Nippon Airways aim to create a ride-sharing air taxi service in Japan.

Joby Aviation (NYSE:JOBY) has its sights set on Japan.

While the California-based developer continues to test fly its four-passenger, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) test article, Joby announced Monday a partnership with ANA Holdings, the parent company of Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA). 

The partnership, which also includes Toyota, aims to collaborate on “all aspects,” of an air taxi ride-sharing service, including the development of infrastructure, pilot training, flight operations, air traffic management, and regulatory requirements, as Japan prepares to host the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, according to a news release.  

Transportation leaders hope to use the six-month-long World Expo, which organizers say will attract millions of visitors, to kickstart Japanese demand for urban air mobility (UAM).

“ANA has 70 years of experience delivering safe and reliable flights to customers across the world. We’re proud to bring that operational experience to the table as part of this partnership and to be at the forefront of introducing this revolutionary form of transport to Japan,“ said a statement from Koji Shibata, representative director and executive vice president at ANA HD. “Our customers value efficiency very highly, so being able to provide them with the option to travel rapidly—and sustainably—from an international airport to a downtown location is very appealing.”

The Uber-backed company plans to use Uber’s popular ride-sharing app to book flights in “core U.S. markets,” but the Japanese partnership will be using local companies, the release said.

Joby also plans to work with local partners to create “seamless end-to-end journeys” with local ground mobility partners. Experts have long said one of the key components to a successful air taxi service includes providing first-mile/last mile ground transportation to and from vertiports, where eVTOLs would take off and land.

In the news release, Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said Japan’s large urban population makes it a key UAM market. 

“Joby exists to help people save time while reducing their carbon footprint,” Bevirt said. “Japan offers us a spectacular opportunity to do just that with 92 percent of the population living in urban areas and Tokyo registering as one of the top 20 most congested cities in the world.”

Morgan Stanley has identified Joby as a leader in the emerging eVTOL industry, which aims to provide short zero-emission passenger and cargo flights over traffic congested urban gridlock. Joby’s battery powered six tilt-rotor air taxi is designed for a pilot and four passengers, with a top speed of 200 mph (174 knots) and a range of 150 sm on a single charge. The company, which has flown more than 1,000 test flights, says it expects to win certification for the eVTOL in 2023, followed by the aircraft entering commercial service sometime in 2024. 

According to the news release, a proposed 15-minute air taxi route between Osaka railway station and Kansai International Airport (RJBB) could potentially save 45 minutes compared with the same route by car. 

Toyota, which is already Joby’s largest outside investor, will be looking to partner with Joby on specific aspects of the service, including ground-based transportation, according to the release. Joby says Toyota has invested nearly $400 million in the eVTOL company so far.

Joby’s announcement comes more than four months after a partnership was announced by its German eVTOL rival, Volocopter, pairing it with ANA’s domestic competitor, Japan Airlines (JAL). 

JAL’s agreement with Volocopter includes orders for 100 Volocopter eVTOLs for transporting passengers and cargo as part of Japan’s emerging urban air mobility ecosystem. 

In January, Chinese autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) developer eHang announced a pre-order agreement with Japanese air mobility platform company AirX for 50 EH216 eVTOLs. The EH216—which performed a demonstration flight in Japan last year—seats two passengers and flies autonomously. 

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