Billionaire Li Shufu is deepening his involvement in flying cars, and his Zhejiang Jili holding group is leading a 50 million Euro ($55 million) investment round in Germany’s Volocopter.
Chinese car maker Geely and Volvo will partner with Volocopter to launch an urban air taxi service in China, the company said on Monday.
Geely in 2017 acquired the Massachusetts-based flying car company Terrafugia, which is seeking official approval for a two-seat aircraft with folding wings that can be driven on the road.
The Volocopter aircraft is completely different, an electric 18-rotor multirotor that takes off and lands vertically.
«Geely is transitioning from an automotive manufacturer to a mobile technology group,» Lee said in a statement.
German automaker Daimler, which previously invested in Volocopter, also participated in round C, bringing the total amount of Volocopter to 85 million euros (94 million us dollars). Geely owns a 9.7% stake in Daimler. Volocopter said it intends to raise more money by the end of the year.
The Volocopter is one of the most advanced of the approximately 200 electric VTOL aircraft programs currently underway.
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In China, Geely and Volocopter will acquire another company believed to be one of the furthest on the development curve, EHang, which is developing a standalone single-seat quadcopter. Last month, the company said it was in talks with the city of Guangzhou to open a pilot air taxi service later this year or in 2020.
Volocopter is developing a fourth-generation prototype, called VoloCity, which is designed to carry two passengers with hand Luggage no more than 21.5 miles at a flight speed of 68 miles per hour. It aims to bring VoloCity to market within the next three years. The company reports that it has conducted more than 1,000 test flights of previous versions.
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In late August, Volocopter performed a manned flight integrated into the air traffic control system at Helsinki international airport. It is preparing to conduct flight tests in Singapore later this year.