A Major Commercial Airline Just Bought 220 Electric Jets, Will Launch in Four Years

Commercial electric aircraft are finally coming to the masses.
Brad Bergan
A rendering of Lilium's eVTOL in flight.Lilium

It's happening.

A major commercial airline is in talks with the German all-electric aircraft startup Lilium to purchase 220 aircraft, for $1 billion, according to a press release from the company.

That's right: commercial-grade electric aircraft are finally coming to the masses. By 2025.

Lilium's all-electric aircraft comes to the masses by 2025

Both Lilium and the major airline, Azul, announced on Monday that they aim to build an electric vehicle takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft network throughout Brazil, within four years. "The aircraft we're planning to launch will do 175 miles an hour," said Lilium Chief Strategy Officer Alex Asseily, in a Monday interview with CNBC. "The range will be 155 miles." This comes amid mounting pressure on the aviation industry to ditch fossil fuel in favor of other, less carbon-intensive means of propelling their aircraft. And with companies like Lilium making rapid headway in electric jets, we can finally see progress happening at scale.

At present, Lilium's aircraft is a five-seater design, but the model going into serial production for Azul will seat seven people, said Asseily in the press release, who added that the production line for this deal is already 50% complete. But it's important to confront the cost: Azul is buying Lilium's electric jets at roughly $4.5 million per shot, slightly higher than low-end private planes with comparable seating capabilities, at $3 million, according to The Street. As the largest domestic airline in Brazil, Azul is injecting the future of flight on a scale of daily departures and inter-city access that could change the nature of transportation in the country. For Azul, the new route network and loyalty program will "create the markets and demand for the Lilium jet network in Brazil," according to an MSN Money report.

Brazilian firm to expedite Lilium's regulatory approval

The new deal will see Azul operate and perform maintenance for its incoming fleet of seven-seater electric aircraft, with Lilium offering custom spare parts, including an aircraft status monitoring platform, and replacement batteries. Deliveries will begin in 2025, one year after Lilium has said it planned to jump-start commercial operations in the United States and Europe. These rollout schedules are contingent upon Lilium's receipt of crucial certification approval from various aerospace regulators (of each country). Azul will "support Lilium with the necessary regulatory approval processes in Brazil" in the agreement, which could hint at how U.S. and European firms might expedite approval processes for their own governments' regulatory procedures.

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This is a major signal to investors and markets that eVTOLs are more than cheap optimism, with Lilium slated to take the SPAC path to going public, announcing in March of this year its plans to merge with Qell Acquisition Corp., which will list on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "LILM." This is critical for the company, since the German news website Welt reported Lilium's risk warning on its 2019 balance sheet, which said it will exhaust its finances in December 2022, if the SPAC merger doesn't go forward, according to a TechCrunch report. But with this $1 billion deal for 220 seven-seater aircraft, the future for sustainable flight just got a little brighter.

This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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