Image courtesy: Volocopter
At the end of June, we published an article discussing the feasibility of establishing an eVTOL market by 2030. To follow up on this, we’ve decided to look at the benefits and risks of being the first company to launch a passenger eVTOL.
As in the previous article, we’ll focus on Volocopter, Joby Aviation, and Lilium. These three companies arguably have the most press to their names and are on track to launch at similar times.
Currently, Volocopter looks to be the first company to launch its passenger eVTOL. It plans to do so at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which take place in July and August. Lilium initially planned to launch in 2024 but has pushed the date back to 2025. Similarly, Joby plans to launch in 2025.
As it stands, then, Volocopter will be the first company to market with a passenger eVTOL. We discussed the differences between its eVTOL and those of Joby and Lilium in our previous post. But from an outsider’s perspective, it’ll launch the world’s first passenger eVTOL.
In terms of impact, being the first to launch a product can lead to considerable market share as competitors play catch up. However, it doesn’t always play out this way. Look, for example, at the iPhone and the smartphone industry, or the Ford Model T and the care industry. These products were by no means the first but they quickly became the most iconic.
Will the same be true for Volocopter? Only time will tell, but it may work in its favour that it plans to focus on the UAM market, whereas Lilium and Joby are looking at longer-range flights.
The biggest benefit of being first to market is the ability to establish a clear share before other companies launch. This has the potential for the company’s name to become synonymous with the product – something we could see happen with Volocopter. The name is catchy enough that it could easily be used in place of “eVTOL” or “UAM”.
Another advantage is developing an economy of scale by forging relationships with suppliers and manufacturers. This ties in with market share in many ways, but a good example would be Volocopter’s ability to set up vertiports in cities, which it could quickly and easily monopolise.
But, on the other hand, being first comes with some clear risks. The most obvious is competitors learning from the company’s mistakes – copying and improving upon their initial design and potential failures. To a certain extent, this isn’t a massive risk, as many eVTOL companies use proprietary technology in their designs.
However, it may happen in regards to launch schedules, flight plans, vertiport use, and so on. We may see competitors work with potential mistakes regarding the product’s launch more so than its technology.
Another risk, albeit a less notable one, is a company sacrificing product features for the sake of launching first. It’s a risk Volcopter has taken with the Paris Olympics contract, as it’s an early launch date and hardly something it can push back. However, the company has done enough demonstrations and virtual walkthroughs of its eVTOL that we’d be aware of any obvious sacrifices by now.
So, do the benefits of being first to market outweigh the risks? The short answer is yes, usually. Volocopter has the potential to quickly become a household name if it nails its launch schedule, especially with the help of a global platform such as the Olympics. Provided it stays on track and has a good plan, the risks of launching first should be relatively minor.