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Archer and Kakao Mobility to Launch Innovative Electric Air Taxis in South Korea by 2026

ByYasmeeta Oon

May 31, 2024
Archer and Kakao Mobility to Launch Electric Air Taxis in South Korea by 2026

Archer and Kakao Mobility to Launch Innovative Electric Air Taxis in South Korea by 2026

In a significant stride towards revolutionizing urban transportation, Archer Aviation has announced a strategic partnership with Kakao Mobility, a leading ride-hailing and parking company, to introduce electric air taxi flights to South Korea starting in 2026. This ambitious plan hinges on the successful development and certification of Archer’s aircraft.

Archer’s move into the South Korean market is part of a broader international strategy that includes launching commercial operations in the United Arab Emirates and India by the same year. The competition in this burgeoning industry is heating up, with Joby Aviation also setting its sights on South Korea in collaboration with SK Telecom and UT, a ride-hailing joint venture between Uber and T Map Mobility that aims to integrate air and land travel.

Under the terms of the deal, Kakao Mobility will own and operate Archer’s Midnight electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, offering air taxi rides to the more than 30 million registered users on its Kakao T mobile app. The service is expected to commence in Seoul, capitalizing on the city’s need for innovative urban mobility solutions.

Range100 miles
Average Trip Distance20 miles
Payload CapacityOver 1,000 pounds
Passenger Capacity4 passengers plus the pilot
FAA CertificationPending

The Midnight aircraft is specifically designed for urban environments, where the average trip is around 20 miles. Despite its promising features, the vehicle is still under development and has yet to receive certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“The vision is clear – reduce the hours lost in traffic and elevate everyday travel with an electric air taxi service that features Archer’s Midnight aircraft,” said Christopher SungWook Chang, Senior Vice President of Kakao Mobility, in a statement.

Kakao Mobility’s partnership with Archer is not its only venture into the eVTOL space. The company has also signed a similar deal with British eVTOL startup Vertical Aerospace, which includes the purchase of up to 50 VX4 eVTOLs for the South Korean market.

Both companies are jointly participating in the K-UAM (Korea Urban Air Mobility) Grand Challenge, an initiative led by the South Korean government to develop and test urban air mobility technologies. This challenge aims to address pressing urban issues such as traffic congestion and air pollution. A public demonstration of Archer’s aircraft in South Korea is planned for late 2024 as part of this initiative.

To support Archer’s early commercialization efforts in Korea, Kakao Mobility is providing $7 million in funding this year, with a second installment planned for the first quarter of 2025. In total, Kakao has agreed to purchase up to 50 Midnight aircraft, worth approximately $250 million, including pre-delivery payments. However, Archer has not disclosed details about the timeline for fulfilling these orders.

Archer’s collaboration with automaker Stellantis is crucial for mass-producing its eVTOLs, with Stellantis granting access to up to $150 million in additional capital. Nevertheless, Archer will bear all costs associated with this partnership. The company reported R&D expenses of $83.5 million in the first quarter of 2024 and has incurred losses of around $807.4 million since its inception, according to regulatory filings. These losses are expected to continue as Archer focuses on delivering vehicles and building air taxi networks over the coming years.

Archer also plans to launch air taxi services in Miami and San Francisco in 2025, in partnership with United Airlines and fixed-base operator Atlantic. However, updates on these planned launches have not been provided to TechCrunch.

  • Archer Aviation partners with Kakao Mobility to launch electric air taxi flights in South Korea by 2026.
  • The Midnight aircraft will operate in Seoul, serving Kakao T app users.
  • Archer also plans international launches in the UAE and India in 2026.
  • Kakao has committed to purchasing up to 50 Midnight aircraft, valued at $250 million.
  • Archer participates in the K-UAM Grand Challenge to showcase its technology in South Korea.

While Archer’s vision is promising, several challenges remain. The company must achieve FAA certification for the Midnight aircraft and scale its production capabilities in partnership with Stellantis. The significant financial investments required for R&D and commercialization will continue to strain the company’s resources. Furthermore, the competitive landscape, with rivals like Joby Aviation making similar moves, adds pressure to Archer’s timeline and market strategy.

In summary, Archer Aviation’s collaboration with Kakao Mobility marks a significant step towards the future of urban air mobility. With ambitious plans for international expansion and substantial financial commitments, Archer is poised to transform urban transportation in South Korea and beyond, provided it can navigate the complex regulatory and operational hurdles ahead.

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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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