Joby team ‘knocking it out the park’ so far in 2023 says CEO
Joby Aviation’s team has consistently delivered on targets across the first half of 2023, according to CEO JoeBen Bevirt.
The eVTOL OEM announced its second quarter (Q2) results this week, reporting a net cash spend of $77m and cash on hand of $1.2bn. A net loss of $286m was partly due to operating expenses of $116m in the quarter. Giving Joby around 10 months of continued operations on current reserves with a consistent cash burn.
Joby’s first production prototype rolled off the line began flight testing during the quarter. Also, the firm submitted all certification plans with the FAA, of which more than two-thirds are already accepted by the regulator.
“Back in our fourth quarter call, we outlined goals for the first half of 2023,” said Bevirt. “We said we would submit all of our Certification Plans to the FAA and we did. We said we would rollout our first production prototype and fly it and we have. I’m pleased to confirm, that the aircraft flew for the first time last week following an extensive ground testing. It performed as expected and we’re looking forward to expanding our flight test program with the aircraft before delivering it to Edwards Air Force Base in due course.”
Bevirt detailed the specifics of the production aircraft. The motors each provide 236 kilowatts of peak power, he said, with six propulsion units on the aircraft, that’s nearly twice the power of a Model S Plaid, the most powerful Tesla variant. “Yet the entire aircraft weighs less than the car,” said Bevirt. “Our motors play an important role in keeping that weight down, the dual wound motor and inverter wages 28kg together and we’ve been able to combine the coolant pump, radiator, fan, hub, propeller, and pitch servo actuation into the same package.
“But it’s not just the power and the weight that makes the motor special, it’s the way in which that power gets delivered,” added Bevirt.
Joby has designed “torque-dense” motors it claims offer as much torque as the engine of a Ford F-350 pickup truck. “And we’ve done this without a gearbox. Gearboxes come with a multitude of rolling element bearings and dozens of gear teeth that are constantly running through fatigue cycles. Each one of these parts has to be tracked, inspected, lubricated and replaced throughout the lifetime of the motor. They also create excess vibration. Instead, we’ve designed the Joby Direct Drive. Our motors deliver all of the power and torque that we need with only one moving part, a single bearing.”
The story is similar when it comes to batteries, says Joby’s CEO. The firm didn’t want to compromise. “Over the last six years, we’ve tested 100 of cells in our own testing lab. The obvious choice would have been a cylindrical cell. They’re widely used in automotive and consumer electronics, but even the best cylindrical cells presented two major challenges. They didn’t offer the level of specific energy we need for maximum performance, and we found their capacity deteriorated after just a few thousand trip cycles. That would mean more frequent battery pack replacement and higher operating cost.”
Joby chose a pouch cell that comes from the automotive supply chain, it delivers 288 Wh/kg at the cell level. The firm have lab tested the cell and found they’re capable of more than 10,000 representative flight cycles. “At the pack level, we’re delivering 235 watt hours per kilogram, which is a higher specific energy than many of the cells we’ve tested on the bench. And, with all of our area specific certification plans now submitted, we have a clear path to certify our battery packs,” said Bevirt.
“As I said at the outset, this has been an incredible quarter, on top of all of the progress we’ve made, we’ve also been able to strengthen our balance sheet and we now have $1.2 billion of funds available to us. Having such a strong balance sheet won’t change our thoughtful approach to spending, but it does allow us to accelerate early production and ensure we’re best positioned to start commercial operations in the US in 2025 as planned for by the FA. It also puts us in a great position to achieve the sort of scale the FAA is planning for by 2028,” concluded Bevirt.