Archer Teams with Fiat Chrysler for eVTOL Production
12 Jan 2021 08:00 AM
Archer Teams with Fiat Chrysler for eVTOL Production
Archer and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced on Jan. 12, 2021 that they have entered into an agreement so Archer can benefit from access to FCA’s low-cost supply chain, advanced composite material capabilities, and engineering and design experience. The new partnership will help accelerate Archer’s timeline in becoming an industry leader with the resources and capabilities to capitalize on the burgeoning advanced air mobility industry, a market that Morgan Stanley estimates will be $1.5T by 2040.
Palo Alto, California-based Archer says it is “creating the world’s first all-electric airline that moves people throughout the world's cities in a quick, safe, sustainable, and cost-effective manner.” It also calls itself “the world’s only vertically integrated airline company.”
Archer came out of stealth on May 21, 2020, by which time it had picked up most of the subsystem leads from the defunct A³ by Airbus Vahana electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) project. Archer is funded by billionaire Marc Lore. When it announced last year, the company said it had flown subscale models and was completing the preliminary design of the 80%-scale demonstrator that should fly in 2021.
The company released an updated graphic of the as-yet-unnamed Archer eVTOL aircraft (shown at the top of this article). The basic approach is unchanged, with what it had described as six pairs of five-bladed, highly tapered propellers (though only one set of six propellers can be seen in the graphics).
The wing is fixed but the propellers tilt up for vertical flight. The sleek fuselage is completed with a V-tail. Both the 2020 and the 2021 images show wings with similar curved wingtips. However, the new graphic shows a slight gull-wing with the wings largely horizontal compared to the 2020 image with dihedral wing angles; the propeller blades appear to the larger diameter and the V-tail is wider with less dihedral. The new drawing also shows a conventional tricycle landing gear.
Archer will manufacture high-volume, composite, eVTOL aircraft, with the intent of starting production in 2023. FCA — the parent company of American automobile brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram — has already collaborated on cockpit design elements of Archer’s first aircraft, which will be unveiled in the coming months. The 100% electric aircraft will be capable of traveling distances of up to 60 statute miles (97 km) at 150 mph (241 km/h). Through this announced collaboration, the companies will work together to significantly decrease the cost of production, “enabling Archer to bring affordably priced service to customers via its ultra-quiet, high-performance eVTOL aircraft.”
“We've been hyper-focused on a customer-first approach to vehicle design and aircraft operations,” said Brett Adcock, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Archer. “Now we are working with a seasoned, industry-leading automotive partner to leverage cost benefits and experience that will allow Archer to produce thousands of aircraft reliably and affordably every single year."
“Electrification within the transportation sector whether on roads or in the air is the future and with any new and rapidly developing technology, scale is important,” said Doug Ostermann, Vice President and Head of Global Business Development of FCA. “Our partnership with Archer has mutual benefits and will enable innovative, environmentally friendly transportation solutions to be brought to market at an accelerated pace.
Specifically, FCA has committed to work with Archer on key areas such as advanced composites and noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), where FCA’s expertise should help to accelerate Archer’s product development timeline. While neither party provided any details as far as manpower, funding or resource allocation, an FCA spokesperson said the two parties “are committed to exploring opportunities that continue to broaden and build upon these early stages.”
“We are excited to team up with one of the world's largest automotive companies on our mission of advancing the benefits of sustainable air mobility,” said Adam Goldstein, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Archer. “This is a first-of-its-kind deal for one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers in moving into the Urban Air Mobility space. There is now a clear path for Archer to bring mass production to this industry, changing the way people travel in and around cities forever.”
FCA, PSA and Stellantis
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. is a global automaker that designs and manufactures vehicles in a portfolio of brands, including the American brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, and sells parts and services under the Mopar name. In Europe, it produces the Italian brands Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Maserati, as well as Comau industrial automation products and Teksid iron and aluminum production.
In December 2019, FCA signed a 50-50 merger agreement with French automaker Groupe PSA; the combined company will take the name Stellantis N.V. ("that which brightens with stars") but the automotive brands will remain the same. PSA was a merger of Peugeot, Citroen, DS Automobiles, Opel and Vauxhall (formerly part of General Motors). The merger was official confirmed on Jan. 4, 2021 and is expected to close on Jan. 16. The combined $58B company will be the world's fourth largest automaker by volume, after Volkswagen, Toyota and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance; it moves FCA from eighth place (4.8M vehicles) and PSA in ninth place (4.1M) to be ahead of General Motors, Hyundai, Ford and Honda.
Both FCA and PSA have developed and produce electric automobiles, and an FCA spokesperson commented, “Electrification within the transportation sector whether on roads or in the air is the future and with any new and rapidly developing technology, smart and strategic partnerships are important.” Neither company appears to have any recent aerospace expertise but, the spokesperson noted, “The agreement [with Archer] will help FCA gain exposure and learn about the urban air mobility market.”
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