Joby Aviation is the latest electric air taxi start-up to go public, and the Santa Cruz-based company is doing so in a SPAC deal that values it at $6.6 billion.
Joby also revealed the first-ever video of its electric air taxi, which the company says it will use to launch a commercial service for transporting passengers by 2024.
The video shows the Joby aircraft, which resembles a helicopter but has six top-mounted, tilting propellers. The air taxi takes off vertically, before its propellers tilt forward to allow the aircraft to build horizontal speed.
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The company says the aircraft, which is powered by six electric motors, can reach top speeds of about 200 mph. (Most civilian helicopters typically max out around 160 mph.)
The all-electric aircraft also has a range of 150 miles and has room for up to five people, including one pilot and four passengers.
Joby's video also puts on display how quiet the aircraft is meant to be, compared to a traditional helicopter, thanks to the electric motors. Joby describes the aircraft as "quiet as a conversation," saying it produces under 70 decibels of noise at 500 feet of altitude (compared to about 87 decibels for most helicopters).
The electric aircraft has been in development for over a decade.
Joby Aviation was founded in 2009 by millionaire entrepreneur JoeBen Bevirt, who launched the company on a secluded, 160-acre ranch outside of Santa Cruz, California. At the time, Bevirt was reportedly pulling in more than $25 million a year in revenue from his invention of the GorillaPod, the flexible camera tripod for smartphones. He put some of his earnings toward assembling a group of engineers to develop the electric motors that would eventually power Joby Aviation's aircraft.
The company has raised nearly $800 million in funding, including a roughly $600 million round led by Toyota in 2020. The Japanese auto giant is partnering with Joby Aviation on manufacturing the latter's electric aircraft ahead of its planned passenger service. Joby also received a $75 million investment from Uber in December, when Joby acquired Uber's own fledgling air taxi service, Uber Elevate.
At the end of February, Joby announced plans to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, backed by investors led by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus. The deal injects $1.6 billion of capital into Joby Aviation.
Joby going public is the latest sign that Wall Street investors are optimistic that electric air taxis will eventually replace helicopters for short-distance air travel. In February, another electric aircraft start-up, Archer, announced it is also going public through a SPAC merger, which values the company at $3.8 billion. That deal came after Blade Urban Air Mobility reached a deal in December to go public via its own SPAC merger that will help fund the company's push into adopting electric aircraft.