KUALA LUMPUR: Green aviation technology company Volar Air Mobility Ltd, which signed the largest Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the 2022 Selangor Aviation Show (SAS) worth $150 million (RM675.12 million), aims to introduce the first green air taxi service in Malaysia within two years.
Volar Founder and Executive Chairman Henry Hooi Hing Lee (image), a Malaysian, said the green air taxi project is driven by its environmental, social and governance initiatives to reduce carbon emissions from aviation, promote aviation training as well as entrepreneurship among locals . It is in talks with partners on the project and will submit its proposal to the Malaysian government once finalized.
“Subject to regulatory approvals, we expect to be able to establish our green air taxi business within 12 to 24 months,” Hooi said. SunBiz.
Hong Kong-based Volar has three goals: to fly the world’s first commercially approved electric multi-seat aircraft and eventually bring it to Malaysia; for a Malaysian who pioneered an eco-friendly air taxi service in Malaysia; and to provide aviation training by partnering with Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Volar is looking to bring the RX4E, an electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft to Malaysia. Volar is the exclusive distributor of the aircraft worldwide, except in certain territories. Developed by the Liaoning General Aviation Academy, the small plane seats four people and has a top speed of 260 km/h with a range of 90 minutes and a range of 300 km.
“The RX4E is pending type certification approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and we expect it to be obtained within the next year. The approval is required to enable the plane to fly for commercial purposes.
“My team and I studied the aircraft and decided that we would like to build the first green air taxi operation without fossil fuel, taking advantage of this aircraft, to start with. So the idea is to build a platform of carpooling,” Hooi said.
Volar will work with ride-hailing platforms to create a seamless customer experience, where the customer can hail a taxi or car to the local airport and from there fly on Volar to the destination airport. From the airport, customers can drive to their desired destination point by hailing another car or a taxi. Thus, taking advantage of a transparent private air and ground mobility option for consumers, which is done by telephone.
The company believes there will be many electric planes in the future and will build a platform that will allow it to bring new planes as they come into service. Its platform will be a green plane-agnostic carpooling platform, likening it to email services Uber or Grab, where customers can choose from a variety of planes and book their air taxi at their convenience.
Volar also hopes to promote entrepreneurship by allowing potential pilots on their platform to run their own air taxi service, through which they will supply the aircraft. It plans to provide an additional career option and source of income for young people in terms of aviation which is currently not available in Malaysia.
Hooi said his journey to green aviation started at the start of the pandemic in 2020, while researching private aviation investment opportunities, he found that most private aviation solutions were not not environmentally friendly, and Hooi decided to look for a greener solution.
There was a lot of interest in the electric aviation sector and he came across an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, but found it had issues in terms of losing propulsion as it he climbed, short flight distance of about 30–50 km or only in a city, its high price of about 2.5 million US dollars each as well as its flight rules for mobility in the city center which does not were not clearly established.
“After this research, we decided to focus on eSTOL. They are traditional aircraft with electric batteries and an electric motor and need a short runway, 260 m, and they fly within existing rules and are much more economical than eVTOL and, more importantly, the use cases extend to intercity mobility (such as routes from) Langkawi-Penang, KL-Ipoh or island-hopping (even) locations where road infrastructure is very poor, especially places like Sabah and Sarawak.
“We will initially focus on eSTOL (intercity mobility) and over time we will introduce eVTOL (inner city mobility) as the technology matures and flight rules for inner city mobility are clearly established. and accepted,” Hooi said.
By introducing a green air shuttle platform, Malaysia will be able to participate in the global air taxi market estimated at US$1.5 trillion by 2040 while raising awareness of carbon emissions.
“We have a partnership with Hong Kong Polytechnic University – they are ranked QS 66 in the world – to establish a flight training academy, to train aspiring pilots and provide them with an academic education, and the pilots will be trained to fly conventional planes and electric planes.
“We are going to use electric planes to bring down the cost of training. Right now pilots have to fly conventional planes which are very expensive, we want to use electric planes to train them,” he explained.
Hooi thinks the outlook for the aviation industry is strong as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The real game-changer is making green aviation available, given the reset. Green aviation coming now is arguably the best time to leapfrog technology and tackle environmental issues,” said he declared.
On Thursday, Volar signed a memorandum of understanding with SAS to partner with Selangor Aviation & Technology Innovation (Selati) to promote green aviation in Malaysia. The MoU involves the potential manufacture of aircraft; maintenance, repair and overhaul; training in air taxi service; and research and development for a period of five years. As a joint venture, Volar and Selati will establish the Institute for Electric Aviation Development Malaysia, a think tank to promote and support the development of green aviation.
Earlier this year, AirAsia Aviation Group Ltd, the holding company of Capital A’s airline group, signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Avolon, an international aircraft leasing company, to lease VX4 eVTOL aircraft to explore the development of air taxi infrastructure in Malaysia.