United Airlines has invested $15 million in electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) manufacturer Eve, alongside a conditional purchase agreement for up to 400 aircraft.

The deal with Embraer’s Brazilian subsidiary Eve will see United purchase 200 of the four-seater “flying taxis”, with a further 200 options.

The carrier said that first deliveries are expected “as early as 2026”.

The announcement follows United’s agreement with eVTOL manufacturer Archer Aviation last year – the carrier recently made a $10 million pre-delivery payment for 100 of the company’s aircraft.

United partners with Archer Aviation to develop electric aircraft

United said that under the terms of the agreement with Eve, “the companies intend to work on future projects, including studies on the development, use and application of Eve’s aircraft and the urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem”.

Eve’s eVTOL aircraft design is set to have a range of 60 miles, and will use conventional fixed wings, rotors and pushers, “giving it a practical and intuitive lift-plus-cruise design, which favors safety, efficiency, reliability and certifiability”.

“United has made early investments in several cutting-edge technologies at all levels of the supply chain, staking out our position as a leader in aviation sustainability and innovation,” said Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures. 

“Today, United is making history again, by becoming the first major airline to publicly invest in two eVTOL companies. Our agreement with Eve highlights our confidence in the urban air mobility market and serves as another important benchmark toward our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – without using traditional offsets. 

“Together, we believe our suite of clean energy technologies will revolutionize air travel as we know it and serve as the catalyst for the aviation industry to move toward a sustainable future.”

Several airlines including GOL, Azul and Japan Airlines are planning to launch eVTOL operations in the coming years, and last year Virgin Atlantic unveiled ambitions to establish a network of short-haul eVTOL passenger flights in partnership with Bristol-based manufacturer Vertical Aerospace.

Virgin Atlantic plans network of short-haul eVTOL aircraft