Embraer-backed electric air taxi company Eve Air Mobility is flying high. In the wake of a $15 million deal with United Airlines, co-CEO Andre Stein joined Cheddar News for an exclusive interview about the company’s electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), its deal with United, and Stein’s own vision for the future of air mobility. 
Although Eve’s eVTOLs won’t be ready for delivery to customers likely until 2026, the company, together with rideshare helicopter company Blade, is slated to kick off air mobility simulations in Chicago, starting September 14.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity
CHEDDAR NEWS: For people who aren't familiar with [electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles] eVTOLs, what do they look like? How do they work?
When you talk about eVTOLs, people often refer to them as either flying cars or compare [them] with helicopters. They're nothing like it. They are a completely new segment, actually for aerospace. They are new types of aircraft that are enabled by electrification. What I mean by that — and why they're not just all just an electrical helicopter — [is that] electrification gives you more freedom for your design. 
In the case of our eVTOL, for example, we have eight rotors for takeoff, and you have wings so you take off vertically … And once you take off… we fly like [an] airplane…That allows you to go inside the city but also to fly like an airplane in a very efficient way, allows you to maximize the benefit of electrification. 
With that, there is a massive reduction in noise compared to a helicopter … you can reduce your footprint up to 90 percent with a comparable helicopter, and [it’s disruptive] when it comes to costs. Operational costs as well can be up to six times lower … than a similar helicopter. So that allows you to create this new frontier for aerospace.
CHEDDAR NEWS: How many passengers are you likely to fit into one of these? And how expensive do you anticipate these rides being for consumers?
Four passengers with an operator inside, a pilot. But we are [preparing] the aircraft to be as autonomous ready as possible, and we do see the future as autonomous. And with that, the same airplane that has four passengers plus a pilot could [fit] up to six passengers.
On the [initial] service, something around $100 for a typical 20-mile ride, which is not too different than what you're seeing on the ground. Even in the simulation in Chicago now — we are starting that, actually, just next week — on that first simulation, you just need to enter on the Blade App and buy a ticket. We are charging $150 for that same type of ride. But you would expect them to start around maybe $100 for 20 miles. 
It’s, again, pretty compared with ground transportation. As time goes by and as we can turn to autonomous operation, and batteries become more affordable, as well, we see some reduction on that. And that cost could go as low as $50 for the same 20 miles.
CHEDDAR NEWS: What problem does this technology solve?
We are not trying to solve everything. So what I mean by that is that we are trying to give people another option in terms of urban mobility. That's the main, the core problem we’re trying to address.
Anyone that's been stuck in traffic for a while can probably think at a certain point, "I could be flying over this traffic." That's it. That's as simple as that … People do spend hours in traffic. And as I said, it's not necessarily going to completely solve the problem of urban congestion, but you can bring another option. If you need to be home earlier, because it's your kid's birthday. If you need to catch a flight, we can give you that time back. If you're spending sometimes two hours in traffic, you can do the same distance in maybe 10 minutes, flying over the traffic. That's it and that's how we started. 
It's not technology for technology's sake. We are applying some disruptive solutions and disruptive technologies, like electrical mobility, to solve a problem, but really having a strong focus on the user and what you can bring in terms of benefit. And the benefit is your time back.
CHEDDAR NEWS: That $100 - $150 price point is unattainable for certain groups of people. Is it understood that this technology is not for all consumers? Are there ways to make it accessible?
We don't see it as something you would use every day to go to work … the same way that normally you don't get a cab or Uber, to go to work every day for $100, even though you need to go that distance. But if you are using it occasionally … the same way you would use ride sharing to go around the town, that becomes more affordable straight away. 
Particularly now in this world where often people are moving away from downtown because they can work from home most of the time, going into the office, it becomes almost like a small business trip….That same $100 become much more affordable, because they're not using that every day. In particular, if you compare even the rental if you're moving from downtown to a bigger house in the outskirts of the city, you can pay a smaller rental that helps the business case, too.
 All that said, in the long term, we do see that going down, as I said, to something like $50.
CHEDDAR NEWS: With the United deal, what [United Airlines Ventures President] Mike Leskinen was talking about was the trip to the airport. Are there other use cases for this technology, or is it predominantly to make that commute from the airport to the city?
There are hundreds of routes in any given city where that type of application could be feasible. What they’re doing in Chicago now with the simulation, for example, the two routes they are flying — they’re not to the airport… they are two commuting routes, that people could [use to] go from A to B. 
A city like Chicago could have as many as 240 eVTOLs flying over 150 routes and over 20 vertiports around the city. So it is really about commuting anywhere in the city. The airport shuttle is just one example of that, where time is very sensitive. So it's a good example of an application. 
We are using a modeling tool we developed together with MIT to understand better the market. The numbers are based on models that take in consideration cell phone data, where people go around the city, economic models, time saving, congestion index. When you put all that together, we see these as opportunities.
CHEDDAR NEWS: Is there demand for this and how much?
There is a massive demand. One of the things that make us believe that demand is real, it's the amount of orders we have so far. We have over 2,000 orders now, including the deal with United, spread around the globe. There’s not just one market, not just one continent. We have orders from all continents, different types of companies … We have different business models believing in this market. 
We've done quite a bit of research ourselves, as well. Last year, we partnered together with KPMG, to tackle the market and have a third-party view on the market size. And they came up with a number that represents three quarters of a trillion dollar market by 2040. That means around 100,000 vehicles worldwide at that time, 50,000 by 2035. We see this exponential growth potential that is in line with what you saw from Morgan Stanley, from other players out there. So there are different numbers out there, but they're all massive, because the demand, the repressed demand is there. 
Eve customers include helicopter operators like Halo and HeliSpirit; airlines like United, Kenya Airways, Japan Airlines and SkyWest; and ridesharing platforms like Blade and Ascent.
CHEDDAR NEWS: Let's talk about the deal with United directly. United is a huge name in air transit. Did you envision when you came up with this technology, having clients like that? And what kinds of doors does it open?
My background is commercial aviation, so, absolutely. 
We understand that airlines do have that know-how, how to operate large networks at scale. It's a completely different geographical size, but if you look at the network, it's very similar to what airlines do. So from the airline perspective, they bring this know-how of how to operate, how to deal with load factors, cost per seat, high utilization — the things that you are bringing to the urban environment. And then we have other operators, like helicopter operators that understand how to fly in urban environments already, and ride sharing apps like Blade that are already doing urban air mobility with helicopters. But there is a limit to it, and with eVTOLs they can scale a lot.
CHEDDAR NEWS: Right now, you're working on four- to six-seat aircraft. But Mike Leskinen was pretty excited about the prospect of eventually utilizing this technology and the electrification factor on United’s path to net zero emission in some of their airliners as well. Is that a potential application? 
There is not one size fits all. So there is not only one solution at one time for each different application. Electrification in general, in particular batteries, are not ready for airplanes to carry hundreds of people thousands of miles away. Nowhere close to that. But that's where disruptive innovation kicks in, because the technology is ready to fly just a few people not that far. So that's how we would disrupt the market, how you enter the market. And that was part of the original rationale of this project. Everything that's happening out there with electrical mobility coming in, it’s not ready to replace an Embraer commercial jet, but it's ready to disrupt on the entry level of the segment. That's exactly what we’re doing. 
So yeah, the future, it's carbon neutral. The future needs to be more sustainable. And we are doing our part. I definitely see electrification and older, sustainable technologies like sustainable aviation fuel being used in the aerospace industry in general and growing sustainably. It's always been here, but now people are more aware of that, even the user is more aware of that.
CHEDDAR NEWS: What's your vision of the future of air transit?
Think about everything that the internet has done for us. People use it to move content from A to B in a very seamless way, a very affordable, very integrated way. The way we see the future is providing that to the physical world. I call it the internet of mobility for people and goods.
Like with the internet, there is a lot of technology behind it. In the case of the internet, there is Wi Fi, fiber optic satellites, 4G, 5G. But for the user, it's seamless. Same here. Air mobility is a big part of this internet of mobility,  this network that needs to be integrated, that needs to be affordable, that needs to be sustainable with people and goods going from A to B … But it needs to be integrated with other modes of transportation. You need to get your scooter to go to the vertiport. You need to go from the vertiport to the airports to across the country with a different airplane. 
It's easy integration in this seamless experience … that I see the industry getting together to achieve. And when I say the industry, the mobility industry as a whole.