Archer and Kakao Mobility to Launch Electric Air Taxis in South Korea by 2026

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Archer Aviation is collaborating with ride-hailing and parking service Kakao Mobility to introduce electric air taxi flights in South Korea by 2026, contingent upon timely aircraft development.

This expansion into South Korea is part of Archer’s broad international strategy, which also includes commercial launches in the United Arab Emirates and India within the same timeframe. Competitor Joby Aviation is also eyeing South Korea in collaboration with SK Telecom and UT, a joint venture between Uber and T Map Mobility that merges air and ground transportation.

According to the terms of Archer’s recent agreement, Kakao Mobility intends to own and operate Archer’s Midnight electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, offering air taxi services to its over 30 million Kakao T app users, beginning in Seoul.

Archer states that the Midnight aircraft has a 100-mile range and is designed for urban areas, where typical trips are approximately 20 miles. The vehicle boasts an expected payload of over 1,000 pounds and can accommodate four passengers plus the pilot. However, the aircraft is still under development and has yet to receive FAA certification.

“The vision is clear – reduce the hours lost in traffic and elevate everyday travel with an electric air taxi service that features Archer’s Midnight aircraft,” stated Christopher SungWook Chang, senior vice president of Kakao Mobility.

Kakao has also entered into a similar agreement with British eVTOL startup Vertical Aerospace, which includes purchasing up to 50 VX4 eVTOLs for the South Korean market.

Both Kakao and Archer are participating in the K-UAM (Korea Urban Air Mobility) Grand Challenge, a government-led initiative aimed at developing and testing UAM commercial technologies to address traffic congestion and air pollution. This initiative will culminate in a public demonstration of Archer’s aircraft in South Korea in late 2024.

To support Archer’s early commercialization efforts in Korea, Kakao is providing $7 million this year, with an additional installment slated for the first quarter of 2025.

Overall, Kakao has agreed to purchase up to 50 Midnight aircraft, valued at roughly $250 million, including pre-delivery payments. Archer has not detailed when it expects to fulfill all 50 orders, or even the initial ones. The startup, which went public through a SPAC merger, has an agreement with automaker Stellantis to mass-produce its eVTOLs and gain access to up to $150 million in extra capital, though Archer will shoulder the expenses of this collaboration.

In the first quarter of 2024, Archer incurred $83.5 million in R&D expenses. Since its inception, the company has accumulated approximately $807.4 million in losses, according to regulatory filings. These losses are expected to grow as Archer strives to deliver vehicles and develop air taxi networks, which are not projected to be profitable for several years.

Archer also plans to launch air taxi services in Miami and San Francisco in 2025, in partnership with United Airlines and fixed-base operator Atlantic. However, the company has not provided updates on these planned launches.

Update: Kakao Mobility and Vertical Aerospace confirmed their ongoing partnership. This article was originally published May 30, 2024, at 3:00 am PT.

Rebecca Bellan
Rebecca Bellan
Rebecca covers transportation. She’s interested in all things micromobility, EVs, AVs, smart cities, AI, sustainability and more. Previously, she covered social media for Forbes.com, and her work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, i-D (Vice) and more. Rebecca studied journalism and history at Boston University.

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