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Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) developer Lilium has announced a new partnership with advanced air mobility (AAM) operator UrbanLink that includes the purchase of at least 20 all-electric eVTOL jets. The aircraft will be operated around Florida as UrbanLink looks to become the first US airline fully committed to the nascent technology.

Lilium ($LILM) is a startup founded in Munich, Germany, in 2015 that has since expanded its footprint of development teams across Europe and the United States. Its current staff sits around 1,000 personnel, including 500 aerospace engineers, who continue to work toward bringing Lilium’s unique eVTOL Jet design to commercial operations in Regional Air Mobility (RAM).

Last fall, we saw Lilium achieve development certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), enabling the startup to continue developing, testing, and preparing its eVTOL jets ­en route toward certification and production before commercial operations.

Speaking of commercial operations, Lilium announced a new partnership with PhilJets in February to bring eVTOL jet rides to the Phillippines. Today, Lilium announced another partnership, this time with UrbanLink Air Mobility in the US, that includes a firm order with room for even more eVTOL jet sales in the future.

eVTOL jet
UrbanLink’s planned eVTOL service map / Source: Lilium

Lilium sells 20 eVTOL jets with opportunity for 20 more

Lilium shared details of its new partnership with UrbanLink today. The partnership includes a firm order for at least 20 eVTOL jets with an option for an additional 20 aircraft. The deal also includes scheduled pre-delivery payments from UrbanLink as the AAM operator looks to become one of the first US airlines to fully embrace aviation technology and integrate eVTOLs into commercial operations.

UrbanLink is led by Ed Wegel, a veteran in the aviation industry who previously served as founder and CEO of charter airline GlobalX alongside stints at Atlantic Coast Airlines and JetBlue. Wegel spoke:

While many airlines have discussed the potential of operating eVTOL aircraft, none have made a definitive commitment. UrbanLink will be the first airline in the U. to integrate eVTOL aircraft into its fleet. We are dedicated to revolutionizing the way people move to and from as well as within urban cores. After thorough evaluation of various manufacturers, we found the Lilium Jet to be the optimal choice for our needs, thanks to its superior cabin design, range, capacity, and cost-effectiveness.

To begin, UrbanLink intends to put the initial 20 eVTOL jets from Lilium into operation around South Florida, offering emissions-free flight routes between Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Marco Island.

Lilium began producing its first eVTOL jets in late 2023 and is targeting its first piloted flight tests ahead of airworthiness certification by the end of the year. Lilium CCO Sebastien Borel spoke about the company’s progress and its new collaboration with a regional airline like UrbanLink:

We are proud that UrbanLink has selected the Lilium Jet for its network and operations. This is a huge milestone, not only for Lilium, but for the commercialization of eVTOLs in the US We believe that this purchase of eVTOL aircraft is the first by a commercial operator that isn’t invested in the manufacturer that it is purchasing from. This is a sign that the market for eVTOL aircraft has matured and there is growing demand for aircraft that can provide connections between, rather than just within, cities. I know that Ed has the vision and operational expertise to make regional air mobility a success

UrbanLink intends to begin commercial flight services with the Lilium eVTOL jets by late 2026.

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This ‘supercharger on wheels’ brings fast charging to you

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This 'supercharger on wheels' brings fast charging to you

Mobile car care company Yoshi Mobility just launched a DC fast charging EV mobile unit that it likens to “a supercharger on wheels.”

Yoshi Mobility saw that its existing customers needed mobile EV charging in places where infrastructure has yet to be installed, so the Nashville-based company decided to bring the mountain to Moses.

“We recognized a demand among our customers for convenient daily charging, reliable private charging networks, and proper charging infrastructure to support their fleet vehicles as they transition to electric,” said Dan Hunter, Yoshi Mobility’s chief EV officer and cofounder.

The company says its 240 kW mobile DC fast charger, which can turn “any EV” into a mobile charging unit, is the first fully electric mobile charger available. It can provide multiple charges in a single trip but doesn’t detail how they charge the DC fast charger or who manufactured it. (I’ve asked for more details.)

Yoshi is launching its mobile charger on two GM BrightDrop Zevo 600s and will introduce additional vehicles throughout 2024. It aims for full commercialization by Q1 2025. (I wonder if the Zevo 600 ever charges itself? Yes, I asked that too.)

Yoshi Mobility says it’s already deployed its EV charging solutions to service “major OEMs, autonomous vehicle companies, and rideshare operators” across the US. Its initial customers are made up of large EV operators managing “hundreds” of light-duty vehicles requiring up to 1 megawatt of energy per day that don’t yet have grid-connected EV chargers. I’ve asked Yoshi for details of who it’s working with, and will update if they share that info.

The company says pricing is based on location and enterprise charging needs. Once under contract for service, the service will be deployed to US-based customers within 10 days.

To date, Yoshi Mobility has raised more than $60 million, with investments from GM Ventures, Bridgestone, ExxonMobil, and Y-Combinator in Silicon Valley.

Read more: Mercedes-Benz just opened more DC fast chargers at Buc-ee’s in Texas


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Toyota US boss says company is ‘catching up’ on electric vehicles

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Toyota US boss says company is 'catching up' on electric vehicles

Is Toyota catching up in the US electric vehicle market? Although Toyota’s US boss, Ted Ogawa, admits it’s behind Tesla, he believes the company is “catching up” on electric vehicles and new tech.

Toyota has been among the biggest laggards in shifting to fully electric vehicles. After a rocky start (including a recall) with the launch of its first EV in the US, the bZ4X, Toyota has failed to gain traction in the market.

Of the over 2.2 million Toyota vehicles sold in the US last year, only 9,329 were all-electric, or less than 0.5%.

The trend has continued this year, with only 1,897 bZ4X models sold through March. That’s less than 0.4% of the over 486,000 Toyota vehicles sold in Q1.

Ogawa says Toyota is watching customer demand for EVs rather than regulations. “However, the BEV was our missing piece two years ago, so that’s why we were very much criticized,” Ogawa explained in a new interview with Automotive News.

After building internally over the past two years, Toyota’s US boss believes the company is “catching up” on electric vehicles and new tech.

Toyota-catching-up-electric-vehicles
2024 Toyota bZ4X (Source: Toyota)

Is Toyota catching up on electric vehicles?

For example, Ogawa said that Toyota headquarters is building a “very exclusive factory” for EVs.

The new “BEV Factory” will feature several new technologies new to Toyota. The company showed off its next-gen EV production line last year with Giga casting, a process made popular by Tesla.

Toyota-EV-production-line
Mixed production at Motomachi factory (Source: Toyota)

Toyota says its “wealth of knowledge” about molds will help speed up production. The company believes it can reduce the lead time for changing molds to around 20 minutes compared to 24 hours.

Other tech like self-propelled assembly lines and robots are promised to enhance efficiency while minimizing defects.

Toyota-EV-production-line
(Source: Toyota)

Toyota also revealed new EV battery plans last summer, including two next-gen batteries due out by 2027. The first “Performance” battery is promised to feature over 800 km (497 miles) range while cutting costs by 20% compared to the bZ4X.

Meanwhile, the “Popularisation” version, due out in 2026-2027, is expected to feature over 600 km (372 miles) range at 40% lower costs.

Toyota-EV-batteries
Toyota EV battery roadmap (Source: Toyota)

Further out (2027-2030), Toyota plans to launch a series of “further evolution” batteries, including solid-state batteries with over 1,000 km (621 mi) range and 10-min fast charge.

Ogawa believes “this is kind of the starting year of the real multipath way, like the hybrid, which we already have, and then plug-in, something between hybrid and BEV, and then BEV, which it is time to introduce to the market.”

Although Toyota is “of course” behind Tesla’s battery tech, according to Ogawa, the company is “catching up.” Ogawa said Toyota is not only catching up on EVs but “also the ecosystem surrounding the BEV area, such as the home charging or energy management.”

Electrek’s Take

Is Toyota really catching up this time? We’ve heard this several times in the past from executives.

With EVs accounting for less than 0.4% of sales in the US, Toyota will need to do more to prove it. Toyota planned to launch solid-state EV batteries in 2021 and 2022, but now we are not expected to see them hit the market until around 2028 (at the earliest).

Other tech, like Giga casting and automated production, will help improve efficiency, but new EVs are not expected to debut until 2026.

Toyota has made several investments recently to boost US production, including a $1.4 billion investment in Indiana to build a new electric SUV, separate from its promised three-row EV model.

Can new models and tech help Toyota catch up in the electric vehicle market this time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Judge rules Exxon can sue activist shareholder over climate proposal

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Judge rules Exxon can sue activist shareholder over climate proposal

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday said Exxon Mobil can sue to bar a climate change proposal from an activist investor, in a case that has raised concerns about its future effect on shareholder resolutions.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman for the Northern District of Texas ruled that Exxon’s lawsuit can proceed against Boston-based Arjuna Capital, but dismissed the oil major’s claim against a second activist shareholder, Follow This, because the firm is based in the Netherlands.

Exxon sued the two investors in January after they submitted a proposal to be tabled at the May 29 annual shareholder meeting that called for the company to accelerate carbon dioxide emissions reductions.

Arjuna and Follow This subsequently withdrew the proposal, but Exxon proceeded with its claims against the two firms, arguing that they could file similar proposals at future shareholder meetings.

Exxon’s claims are based on Securities and Exchange Commission rules that allow companies to exclude shareholder resolutions if they deal with a matter relating to the company’s ordinary business operations, or are substantially similar to proposals offered in the past five years.

Pittman said Arjuna and Follow This were following a “Trojan Horse” model in which they aggregate enough shares in oil companies to vote and submit proposals aimed at fighting climate change.

The judge, appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump in 2019, said Exxon should not be faulted for distrusting the activist investors. He said Arjuna could slightly modify its withdrawn 2024 proposal for submission to future shareholder meetings.

“Rather, the company’s position is a rational response to entities categorically opposed to Big Oil,” Pittman wrote. “Exxon is big. And Exxon is Oil. And another court has already found at least Defendant has leadership that’s ‘manifestly biased’ against Exxon.”

Arjuna, which calls itself “a sustainable investment firm that works with accredited investors and institutions to invest their assets with a lens toward sustainability,” did not immediately respond to an e-mail request from CNBC for comment.

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