The Japanese trading and investment business conglomerate Marubeni Corporation has announced a partnership with Vertical Aerospace to pursue emissions-free advanced air mobility (AAM) travel solutions in Japan, with the agreement including a conditional pre-order from Marubeni for up to 200 of the British eVTOL developer’s piloted, four-passenger VA-X4 aircraft.
The agreement follows Vertical Aerospace’s previously reported commercial partnerships and brings the conditional pre-orders for the VA-X4 to 1,350, with a potential value of approximately $5.4 billion.
In a press release, Vertical Aerospace cited “technological and regulatory advantages” as positioning Japan for the commercialization of AAM. The company said it is confident that alignment with Marubeni can accelerate its entry into the Japanese market.
“Marubeni is one of the most respected companies in Japan, and we are proud to be partnering with them as we look at ways to bring our VA-X4 to the Japanese market,” stated Vertical Aerospace founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick. “Marubeni’s pre-order option for up to 200 aircraft provides us with a potential direct route to market and builds on our purchase agreements with American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Avolon, Iberojet, and Bristow.”
Under the agreement, Vertical Aerospace and Marubeni will jointly evaluate the requirements for eVTOL aircraft operations in Japan, taking into account such commercial considerations as route and network planning, infrastructure requirements, and capacity. The companies will also work to engage other, as yet unspecified, parties interested in launching AAM in Japan.
Marubeni representatives foresee a number of possible uses for eVTOL aircraft in the country, including intra-city and inter-city travel, airport shuttle services, and life support operations.
The winged VA-X4 is projected to have a range of over 100 miles (160 kilometers) at speeds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h). Vertical Aerospace is targeting initial certification of the aircraft by 2024, and Marubeni expects that eVTOL operations under the agreement will commence in 2025 — the year of Japan’s highly anticipated Osaka Expo.
“Through this strong partnership with Vertical, we are confident that we will successfully develop the AAM market in Japan,” said Toru Okazaki, senior operating officer of Marubeni’s Aerospace and Ship Division. “By seeking to popularize eVTOL technology, we will not only be enriching people’s lives but making meaningful inroads into the reduction of greenhouse gases and our path to net-zero.”