Founded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Embraer has spent over 50 years as a pioneer in the aerospace industry, producing military, executive, and agricultural aircrafts. In 2017, the company started EmbraerX, an internal division “chartered with the mission to essentially see around corners, look into the future and…invest in that technology and build it ourselves,” said David Rottblatt. That included developing eVTOLs — electric vehicles that can affordably make short-distance air travel possible in urban environments — and systems to manage air traffic in cities.
However, “EmbraerX is very much designed to be an incubator,” Rottblatt said, and last year “we really needed to start to prepare the spin out of these two projects.” In October of 2020, EVE Urban Air Mobility became the first startup to spin out of the aerospace giant.
Rottblatt is the Vice President of Business Development at EVE. In this episode of One Quick Thing, Rottblatt discussed the story behind spinning out the startup and how air taxis could shape the future.
Why Spin Out EVE?
“The best way to empower and to strengthen a company is to prepare [it] to leave the nest,” Rottblatt said of EmbraerX’s incubator mindset.
According to Rottblatt, EmbraerX decided to spin out EVE when the team began growing beyond the “resource requirements and needs” that the program was able to provide. The second reason for the spin out, Rottblatt cited, was to grow the number of employees working on the project.
“In order to do that successfully, a new entity would have been best in order to attract that type of talent pool that we would need,” Rottblatt said.
Additionally, EVE can focus specifically on air mobility solutions, leaving the team at EmbraerX “to look at the broad spectrum of innovation and future-oriented solutions that aren’t necessarily just related to urban mobility,” Rottblatt said.
Today, EVE is an independent company that can partner with both Embraer and entities outside the company. According to Rottblatt, the EVE team has worked with both government partners and investors.
The Future of Air Mobility
When discussing the future of air mobility, Rottblatt said that the team at EVE focuses on three use cases: eVTOLs as airport shuttles, air solutions for commuters, and tourism.
According to Rottblatt, electric air vehicles are both quieter and less expensive to operate than other means of air mobility. “The expectation is the cost savings of operating a more efficient vehicle will be passed to the consumer, meaning you, who can afford a much more accessible price point,” he said. “If the price point continues to drop, then a broader swath of the population can afford this type of a service that is also going to be available closer and closer to home.”
The team at EVE also tailors air mobility solutions to different geographies. “The types of use cases that we think will work in the United States may be very different from Australia,” Rottblatt said. “And so before we think about designing that use case profile in different countries, it behooves every company, including us, to validate those assumptions.” Other use cases for eVTOLs and electric air mobility solutions include medical and cargo transport.
Rottblatt also emphasized the importance of education, as EVE’s air mobility solutions are new and transformational. “Education is very important in terms of what is done to allay some of the fears of the detractors…[or] very cautious people that are concerned that [it is not] the right time,” Rottblatt said. The team at EVE runs pilots and gathers data to gain allies. “It’s one thing to be skeptical on conjecture. It’s another thing to be able to provide someone with data, which we are generating through multiple simulations, to say, ‘This is what we’ve accomplished.’”