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Joby Aviation Exec. Chairman on developing electric aircraft for air taxi service

In this article:
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Paul Sciarra, Joby Aviation Executive Chairman, joins Yahoo Finance to break down the future of the aerial rideshare industry, future opportunities for investors, and looking ahead to Joby going public.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Joby Aviation-- I don't know what it is with me today. Joby Aviation has completed the longest test flight of an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft-- that's an eVTOL-- to date. We're joined now by Paul Sciarra, Joby Aviation executive chairman.

Paul, hopefully I can talk throughout this interview. I've been struggling today. So let's just talk about electric aircraft because I know it's quite tricky since the battery has to have enough power to really get that lift off, but then also has to have enough juice and power, essentially, to complete the rest of the journey without still being too incredibly big. So how did Joby really find that balance in your aircraft?

PAUL SCIARRA: Well, thanks a lot for having me on, Kristin. And it's-- as you noted from the outset, it's been a big day-- a big week of milestones for the company. And one of those was certainly the demonstration of a 150-mile test flight on a single charge, I think showing, contrary to the way that many people thought, that the long range that we've talked about is possible with batteries that exist today.

I think it's a real testament, frankly, to the engineering effort that's really played out over the course of the past 10 years in this company putting together the right pieces, the right sort of efficient electric motors, the right battery packs, the right underlying aircraft design to really deliver on the promise of air taxis for the first time. So the challenge is, as you mentioned, sort of ensuring that you have the right amount of power and that you're using it in the right way. And this test flight, I think, is a real testament to that work.

KRISTIN MYERS: So I want to ask, because you guys are expected to bring some of these flights to market in 2024, what kind of flights can the public expect once those flights are brought to market?

PAUL SCIARRA: So we've designed our aircraft maybe a little bit differently than others, to really be suitable for any trips between 5 and 150 miles. So that's a pretty wide swath of trips. So that's trips inside of cities, say downtowns to airports. But also, at the higher end of the range, really allowing us to taxi cities to suburbs and, in some cases, cities to nearby cities. The 150 miles that we demonstrated this week, that's a trip from, like, San Francisco to Tahoe, doing it at a fraction of the time at similar cost to taking a ride-sharing vehicle on the ground, and of course, we think even greater safety. So the opportunity is really to deliver on that big, wide range of trips with just a single aircraft.

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to ask, because you guys right now are based in California, but are there plans to bring some of these shuttles perhaps to the East Coast, to New / I know the shuttle flight from New York to the Hamptons, for example, is a popular one right now. I've seen some of my friends have definitely made that trip. Are there plans beyond California right now?

PAUL SCIARRA: So we haven't made any announcements of our launch cities, though I think we've told investors during our analyst day that we're going to be making some announcements on that front on the tailend of this year. And when we think about the opportunity for this aircraft and the service that's based on the aircraft, it's really not-- we think it's really widely applicable. So hey, it could be LA. It could also be New York. There are cities like Miami that I think are also interesting. So we really intend to target our initial launch in one or two cities and then kind of grow from there.

KRISTIN MYERS: What about cost? I know that Joby Aviation says that, you know, you guys are trying to make this type of travel a reality for your typical and average American, so what is the cost of one of these flights going to be?

PAUL SCIARRA: It's a really good question, Krisitn. And everything about this aircraft was designed to be affordable and accessible from day one. So the capacity of the aircraft, the speed of the aircraft, the sort of reduced charge time were all to ensure that we could drive to a price point that started affordable and got progressively more affordable in time.

So we messaged in the analyst presentations that we're expecting to start at sort of roughly $4 per passenger seat mile, driving down over the first two years to something like $3 per passenger seat mile. So folks can think about that as sort of-- kind of a little bit below the cost of an Uber Black today, getting down to the cost of an UberX. And at those price points, we think this is a mode of transportation that can really be affordable and accessible to everyone.

KRISTIN MYERS: And I want to ask you about Pinterest in just a moment. But before I do, I want to quickly ask you, because I know Joby Aviation is set to go public in August after a shareholder vote, I'm curious to know if you can tell us a bit about your plans after that IPO and what's coming next?

PAUL SCIARRA: Yeah, so for us, the sort of opportunity to go public now really wasn't based so much on market conditions, but instead about the company's readiness across the things that we're going to have to execute over the next stretch. So we feel really good about where the technology stands. Obviously, that's demonstrated by the flights this week. And what's going forward is really the execution of a certification plan that has now been sort of broadly agreed to with the FAA with our receipt of the G1 issue paper.

So our approach over the next three years are going to be quarter by quarter to execute against the things that matter to build this business-- first, certification, second, manufacturing, and third, service design and rollout.

KRISTIN MYERS: I, of course, want to ask you about Pinterest because you are one of Pinterest's co-founders. Pinterest really getting slammed today, down 18.5%. That is, of course, on the news that that monthly average user figure has fallen. And Pinterest really did so well during the pandemic, as so many folks turning to Pinterest for recipes and I'm assuming new ways to bake bread. I'm curious to know what you think is coming next for Pinterest, especially as we move out of the pandemic-- folks are excited about getting back outside-- about some of the growth there and some of those average users every month.

PAUL SCIARRA: Yeah, well, I certainly can't speak to the specifics of this quarter, Kristin. But look, I've always had confidence in the product, and then in Ben and the sort of broader team there. So I think that the company is going to continue to sort of execute well over the next stretch.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, a nice bull and optimistic tone being struck for Pinterest. Paul Sciarra, Joby Aviation's executive chairman, thanks so much for joining us today.