By Valerie Insinna
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Electric aircraft maker Joby Aviation will invest up to $500 million to build a new facility in Dayton, Ohio, where it will mass produce air taxis, it said on Monday.
The 140-acre site at Dayton International Airport is set to be the first serial production location for the company, as opposed to the prototypes built at its pilot production line in California.
Joby founder JoeBen Bevirt told Reuters that the company is "driving vigorously" to win Federal Aviation Administration certification for its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft so that it can begin commercial passenger service in 2025.
Joby intends to begin hiring "immediately" to stand up manufacturing of aircraft components at existing buildings at the Dayton site, Bevirt said. Construction of the new production facility will begin in 2024, with operations to start in 2025.
Bevirt declined to comment on initial production rates and how much funding would be immediately allocated to construct the Dayton facility. The state of Ohio and several political organizations have offered up to $325 million in incentives and benefits to develop the Dayton site, Joby said.
Eventually, the site could accommodate manufacturing facilities that take up more space than the Pentagon, support 2,000 jobs and the production of 500 aircraft per year, Joby said.
Unlike eVTOL competitors like Archer Aviation and Beta Technologies, which intend to sell aircraft directly to airlines and logistics companies, Joby's business model more closely resembles rideshare apps, where customers can request a ride on an air taxi owned and operated by the company.
While Joby has been flying full-scale aircraft since 2017, it unveiled its first production-representative prototype in June, which can fit four passengers and a pilot.
Bevirt said the company is "ramping up the testing team aggressively" to conduct the thousands of tests and evaluations necessary to attain FAA certification.
(Reporting by Valerie Insinna; editing by Timothy Gardner)