Air taxi developer Archer Aviation wants to bring back the term “flying car”.

The company’s chief executive Adam Goldstein embraced the name – which had for decades been used to describe futuristic personal aircraft but has since fallen from favour – during Archer’s 2023 earnings call on 26 February.

During that call, Archer executives insist they are progressing toward certification of their Midnight air taxi, while pointing to ambitious production goals, even as uncertainty abounds.


Archer aims to have its Midnight air taxi in service next year

“We’ve decided to embrace the term ‘flying cars’, because to make urban air mobility accessible to the general public, we need to bring the future of transportation into today’s reality,” Goldstein tells investors.

Since the current air-taxi revolution took off in the last decade, the sector largely took to calling their designs “electric vertical take-off and landing” (eVTOL) aircraft. That name is too much a “mouthful”, Goldstein says. Archer has “started doing a lot of thinking on the industry’s nomenclature for our aircraft”.

“The fact that flying cars are starting to weave into the fabric of society is a testament to the hard work that everyone here at Archer and our partners and others around the industry are doing,” he says.

Entrepreneurs have for 100 years promised to change the world by developing futuristic “flying cars”, which largely – and unlike the current class of in-development air taxis – were intended to both fly and roll down the road on wheels. Such concepts never came to fruition as backers promised, leaving the term “flying car” to also become a metaphor for technology revolutions that seem always just beyond the horizon. Some eVTOL leaders have urged the term be retired.

But Goldstein thinks Archer is close to making air taxis – flying cars – a reality. He cites a goal of having Archer’s Midnight aircraft in service next year.

Archer is not there yet. Though it is considered by some industry watchers as one of the firms most likely to bring air taxis to market, major hurdles remain, not least being the challenge of certificating a new aircraft type – something even industry heavyweight Boeing has struggled immensely to achieve in recent years.

Air taxis also require new air traffic management technologies and new infrastructure, such as landing and charging sites.

Archer Midnight Abu Dhabi

Source: Archer Aviation

Archer intends both to operate its own fleet of Midnight air taxis and to sell the aircraft to other operators

Developers must also be prepared to bleed money during costly, revenue-free development periods. Archer lost $458 million in 2023, with its operating expenses jumping 29% year on year to $447 million, including non-cash expenses of $135 million.

The company ended 2023 with cash and short-term investments valued at $465 million, down from $531 million at the end of 2022.

Archer expects its first-quarter 2024 operating expenses will come in at $100-120 million. The company’s chief financial officer Mark Mesler tells investors Archer will focus its spending this year on production of six production-standard aircraft, certification, construction of a manufacturing site in Georgia, hiring employees and investing in suppliers.

Archer says it intends to sell its aircraft for about $5 million each, a price some industry analysts view as incongruent with the goal of widespread operation.

“These things are way too [expensive] for the business models to work,” aerospace analyst Kevin Michaels with AeroDynamic Advisory said earlier in February. “You’re gonna hop on a $5 million Uber for your next ride? No you’re not.”

“The challenges of the aircraft traffic management system are enormous,” he adds.

Archer insists it is making progress toward certification, having completed 50 flights in the last several months. “We’re still in the envelope-expansion flight-test campaign for Midnight, so we’re continuing to fly faster and faster through transition,” says Goldstein. “Transition” is when the aircraft transits from vertical to forward flight. “Our main goal is to get into piloted flight testing” in the second half of this year.

Goldstein also expects this year Archer will complete construction of a planned 32,516sq m (350,000sq ft) manufacturing site in Covington, Georgia – a facility Goldstein says will be capable eventually of producing 650 aircraft annually.

Archer is collaborating to build the site with automaker Stellantis, which intends to handle production of Archer’s air taxis. The companies have not yet finalised their manufacturing agreement but Goldstein hopes to do so this year.