By: John Martin Winther Andersen
A "White Elephant"; According to Wikipedia, a ".. metaphor used to describe an object, construction project, scheme, business venture, facility, etc. considered expensive but without equivalent utility or value relative to its capital (acquisition) and/or operational (maintenance) costs ..".
We bring this metaphor up, because lately the blooming eVTOL part of aviation has on its journey on The Gartner Hype Curve now passed the tip of the first curve (point of "Peak of Inflated Expectations"), and we are in this roller coaster (i.e. business) on our way downhill toward the point called "Through of Dissillusionment".
Most of us are still having fun even on this ride downhill, because it was expected, we know where we are going and more important, we have an idea when we are going up again on the curve. But some onboard seem screaming and almost holding on for their dear "life", because they fear that in the heat of the moment they have invested poorly during the last two years hype, especially during some SPAC mergers in eVTOL projects.
The honeymoon period has ended and some have started their Blame Game.
Over a year ago the company Wolfpack published a report about Chinese eVTOL developer eHANG and in Wolfpack's own wordings ".. a stock promotion destined to crash and burn ..". It is important to mention that same Wolfpack also with their report recommended to short-selling eHANG stocks.
Earlier this year we saw another eVTOL developer, Lilium, getting a similarly scrutinizing from another research company, Iceberg Research. That was shortly followed by some investors filing lawsuit against Lilium.
If it isn't obvious for everyone, it's important to keep in mind that of the +600 eVTOL projects, of course not all of these projects will come to market, we must expect several more projects down the line will be scrutinized as well, rightly or wrongly. This is the 3rd revolution in aviation, the 1st was the invention of man-powered flight, where a lot of inventors and projects as well surfaced in the early 1900's and only a very few made it through. We have all seen the for us today funny videos of their trials on sometimes weird contraptions, but for them it was serious attempts based on the knowledge at the time.
For the record, the 2nd revolution in aviation was the jet-engine, making flights faster, go further and more affordable and comfortable.
Some eVTOL projects are only ideas or testmules for other projects and many will fail for various reasons (lack of finance, poor choice of technology etc.). Despite AAM is destined to be a huge market in the nearby future as we have described in other articles, the wast majority of these projects will never get to market, even if the design is somewhat sound. There simply isn't market for that many developers / manufactures and that many types of eVTOL aircrafts to supply the market, each needing to go to large scale to make their product cost-effective to purchase and operate.
The SPAC Mania
In 2020 and especially 2021, we saw a ludicrous increase of SPAC deals come into force.
Their purpose is to find a private company, buy it, and take it public quickly. Wall Street calls SPACs “blank-check companies’’ because investors backing a SPAC invest their money up to two years before an acquisition target is identified, hoping the so-called SPAC sponsors find a good deal. For example an eVTOL project.
About five (5) of the SPAC deals went to eVTOL's developers. What was noticeable after each SPAC merger with an eVTOL developer had ended, what they had expected to receive in financial aid before going through the SPAC merger, was more, for some significantly more than they actually got through the SPAC merger. Which opens a couple of questions, one is; will those eVTOL developers then have enough finances to make it all the way to market before they run out of cash ?
Most of the eVTOL developers that merged with a SPAC has lost significant amount of value on their stock-exchange since they where going public in 2021.
Lufthansa Innovation Hub TNMT group has made a paper explaining this SPAC Mania period, that we find worth reading.
Do your Baseline work before investing time and money
At Copenhagen Helicopter we have done our Baseline work to date, going through some 645 different eVTOL projects, evaluating each and everyone, put them on an easy to overlook "scoreboard" based on 9 different select parameters. In our view some of the best and most promising projects are spread out on both some of the leading vendors as well as some of the smaller less-known vendors.
We recommend anyone wanting to enter the stage of eVTOL's do the same.
Look out for "White Elephants"
In our view, we see two possible "White Elephants" we as a collect business need to be aware of, when we ride through the bottom of the The Gartner Hype Curve;
- Large eVTOL developer(s) overselling, overpromising etc. what they can offer and their bluff is called out. Their size can muddy the water so much, that it potentially drags down other innocent players or maybe even the business as a whole, because major trust in the business is broken.
- Investor(s) who jumped on a hype-wagon like some of the SPAC mergers and now after the honeymoon period is over, is throwing a tantrum, gaining a lot of attention, because they can't admit they where mostly to blame for lack of proper due diligence and lack of good Baseline work.
At eVTOL.dk we keep an eye on the possible influence and thereby partial damage of the booming eVTOL and AAM business, either of these two types of "White Elephants" can influent. They must be contained, must be articulated if they surface so they will not be allowed to gain major influence in the general trust, everybody else should have and can have in the development of eVTOL and AAM.
To summarize our point of view;
- Don't be surprised to see similarly research reports pop-up in the coming years, when other developers gets into someones spotlight for various reasons.
- Do your proper due diligence work, do your proper Baseline work before investing time and money. Don't just jump onboard because of hype and glossy brochures.
- Stay out of hypes, invest time and money in eVTOL and AAM but wisely. It's mostly a long-term investment, no quick bugs or "two year" exit-strategy can be expected. And if you jump on a hype-wagon, don't throw a tantrum afterwards if it goes bad.
- The business case for the future of eVTOL and AAM is in all general considerations, sound.