Archer will manufacture eVTOL ‘Midnight’ in Georgia
California’s eVTOL startup Archer has selected a site in Georgia to install its first factory in Covington, near an airfield. The United Airlines partner targets making 650 flying cabs a year from 2024 and increasing capacity significantly within ten years.
Staying in Georgia, Archer plans to initially build out a 350,000-square-foot factory (about 32,516 sqm) which it can expand by an additional 550,000 square feet to support the production of up to 2,300 aircraft annually. The company expects to complete the first stage in 2024.
In the longer run, the company intends to invest $118 mn over the next ten years. It will receive an incentive package totalling 33% of its capital investment commitment from the state of Georgia. Georgia, governed by Republican Brian Kemp, has managed to score several investments correlated with Biden’s infrastructure funding and Inflation Reduction Act, adding local incentives.
Archer listed the skilled local labour market, utility availability, costs and logistics as “key considerations” alongside the ability to conduct seamless flight test operations.
“After many months of discussion and evaluation, we’re excited to select Georgia as the location for our manufacturing facility,” said Adam Goldstein, Archer’s CEO.
Governor Kemp added they were “thrilled to welcome Archer to the state of Georgia, where they can take advantage of our signature workforce training program Quick Start to help fill, in the long-term, over 1,000 jobs in Covington.”
Georgia is home to more than 800 aerospace companies. It has a dozen high schools that offer training in the field, five technical colleges with aviation programs, and several universities offering degrees in aerospace engineering.
Supply chain coming together
Regardless of Georgia awaiting several battery companies, such as SK Innovation or Freyr, to open cell factories, Archer has opted for an overseas supplier. Molicel of Taiwan will manufacture and supply the batteries for Archer’s series electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, Midnight.
Molicel plans to establish its first Gigafactory in Taiwan, which is scheduled to ramp up production in 2023. The facility will have the capacity to produce 1.8 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of battery capacity annually.
Goldstein, Archer’s CEO, also pointed to Molicel’s 40+ years of high-volume manufacturing experience in the battery industry. The company also claims it has more than 64% of its suppliers for its bill-of-materials selected for the eVTOL.
Plans for such an eVTOL surfaced in May 2020, and Archer has filled in gaps ever since.
The Midnight, as the company now dubs the four-seater known as ‘Maker’ in the prototype stage, initially targeted intra-city travel in the style of an air taxi of around 60 miles (just under 100 kilometres). However, today’s announcement only mentions “back-to-back short-distance flights of about 20 miles with approximately 10-minute charging cycles in between”.
Archer disclosed no data concerning battery size this time nor the scope of the intended supply agreement. Early news had specified the usable battery capacity at 143 kWh, with 80 kWh intended for flight (“cruise”), 26 kWh for hovering and 37 kWh as a reserve.
First air taxi route with United Airlines
And real-life use cases are taking shape. Archer also updated us on its existing cooperation with United Airlines. The company, in February last year, said it wanted to run 200 Archer eVTOL eventually, and just revealed the first route: Downtown Manhattan to Newark Liberty International Airport. They estimate the ultra-short flight to take ten minutes using existing infrastructure like the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.
“Once operational, electric air taxis will fundamentally change how United customers experience comfort, convenience, and efficiency during their commutes to the airport,” said Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures. “Archer’s New York to Newark route marks another important benchmark towards providing a carbon-neutral and safe commute that drastically reduces the travel time and produces a fraction of the sound emitted by helicopters.”
Archer refers to the new transport ways between the airport to the city centre as “trunk” routes. Once these primary trunk routes have been established, Archer will begin building out “branch” routes to connect to surrounding communities. The first phase of this UAM network is targeted for launch in 2025, so the company.
archer.com (Georgia), archer.com (Molicel), archer.com (United Airlines)
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