Personal Finance NA Technology

Electric Flying Taxi Backed by United Airlines Unveiled in L.A.

Electric Flying Taxi Backed by United Airlines Unveiled in L.A.

United Airlines-backed startup Archer Aviation Inc. unveiled its future electric aircraft in traffic-choked Los Angeles, one of the cities where the company anticipates it will one day shuttle customers to and from the airport.

The so-called Maker electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle will have a 60-mile range and fly at 150 mph when it enters commercial service in 2024, according to Palo Alto, California-based Archer.

Archer executives debuted their Maker vehicle at a glitzy event on Thursday evening in Hawthorne, California, about five miles from Los Angeles International Airport. The company also plans to operate in Miami. Airlines and other companies see a future where eVTOLs help ease traffic congestion by moving commuters in small electric aircraft, free of carbon emissions.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. has invested $20 million in Archer, which said in February it plans to merge with a special purpose acquisition company overseen by investment banker Ken Moelis later this year. That deal valued the startup at $3.8 billion. United also plans to acquire as many as 200 Makers from Archer if the aircraft meets its performance and operational needs.

The Maker’s public debut occurred the same day United rival American Airlines Group Inc. said it would preorder 250 four-seat VA-X4 electric aircraft developed by U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace Group Ltd. American also said it had invested $25 million in Vertical. Two other eVTOL companies, Joby Aviation and Lilium GmbH, have agreed to go public through SPAC mergers.

The Maker’s development has been overshadowed by litigation. Rival eVTOL developer Wisk Aero LLC sued Archer in U.S. court in April, alleging theft of its technology. Wisk, a venture backed by Boeing Co. and Google billionaire Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk Corp., alleges that former employees took files and secret designs from the company before going to work for Archer.

On June 1, Archer filed a motion denying Wisk’s allegations and asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.