The Bavarian electric aircraft company Lilium has closed a financing round for more than 240 million dollars. The Chinese internet giant Tencent led the round. Other previous investors including Atomico, Freigeist and LGT also participated.
The start-up company from Weßling near Munich intends to use the fresh capital for the further development of the Lilium jet and preparations for series production in the recently completed production facilities. The new plant, with a surface area of 3,000 square meters, is located directly next to the company’s headquarters in Weßling, where more than 400 people currently work. A second, even larger factory at the same location will soon follow. According to Lilium, the two plants will enable the company to produce hundreds of electric aircraft per year by the planned start of operations in 2025.
Lilium aims to position a fleet of electric aeroplanes in cities around the world by 2025. Specifically, they aim to operate their own Lilium jet fleet to establish an on-demand air taxi service, which the company claims should guarantee flights “comparable in price to a taxi, but four times faster,” thanks to a dense network of landing hubs. According to Lilium, trial operations at several locations will begin before 2025.
Technically, the five-seater VOTLs to be used will have 36 electric engines, be capable of speeds of up to 300 kph and have a range of up to 300 kilometres. Lilium says the aim is to connect entire regions in this way and not to limit itself to short distances within an urban area.
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Meanwhile, the flight tests of the Bavarians are becoming increasingly complex: In September, Lilium published images on the occasion of the latest, completed phase of flight tests. These show the electric aircraft for the first time flying at speeds of over 100 kph and the transition from vertical to horizontal flight. According to Lilium, that part is “one of the greatest challenges of aviation”.
The jet celebrated its world premiere in May 2019, around which time Lilium also made its maiden flight with the aircraft. However, Lilium suffered a setback in March: One of the two electric air taxi prototypes was irreparably damaged in a fire. The fire broke out during routine maintenance inside the aircraft, and the cause is not yet known. Until this is clarified, no test flights with the second prototype will be undertaken.
In Europe, the startup has initiated the certification process for the VTOL in spring 2019. Also, Lilium considers the USA a key market with a large number of heliports and airfields, which is why Lilium also wants to gain a foothold there.
Before the current financing round, the start-up had already raised around 100 million dollars – Tencent was also involved at the time. In total, the Bavarians have now generated about 340 million dollars. Lilium CFO Christopher Delbrück emphasises that the new, additional financing “underlines the deep confidence of our investors in our physical product as well as in our business case”.
With reporting by Cora Werwitzke, France.
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