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German eVTOL Aircraft Startup Lilium Aims to Launch IPO in a Reverse Merger With Qell Acquisition Corp

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【Summary】German aviation startup Lilium​, a company working on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that might one day whisk commuters through the sky over crowded cities below plans to launch a U.S. IPO. Lilium intends to list on the Nasdaq through a merger with Qell Acquisition Corp (“Qell”), a publicly listed special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) headed by former General Motors North American President Barry Engle.

Eric Walz    Apr 01, 2021 4:30 PM PT
German eVTOL Aircraft Startup Lilium Aims to Launch IPO in a Reverse Merger With Qell Acquisition Corp

German aviation startup Lilium, a company working on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that might one day whisk commuters through the sky over crowded cities below plans to launch a U.S. IPO.

Lilium intends to list on the Nasdaq through a merger with Qell Acquisition Corp ("Qell"), a publicly listed special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) headed by former General Motors North American President Barry Engle.

The transaction values the combined company at an implied $3.3 billion pro forma equity value at the $10.00 per share PIPE price. The combined company is expected to receive approximately $830 million of gross proceeds from a fully committed common stock PIPE offering of $450 million, along with approximately $380 million cash held in trust.

Qell was formed in San Francisco in Aug 2020. The company invests in high-growth businesses in next-generation mobility, transportation or sustainable technology sectors. The management team, led by Engle, has deep experience in emerging technology companies.

Upon closing of the transaction, the new company will be called Lilium, and it is anticipated that ordinary shares will be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "LILM." 

The deal would provide Lilium with access to capital and industry experience as its looks to launch a commercial air taxi service in 2024. The proceeds from the transaction are intended to fund the launch of Lilium's commercial operations, including the finalization of serial production facilities in Germany, launch of serial production aircraft and certifications for flight.

Air Taxi Startup Lilium Raises $240 Million in Fundraising Round Led By Tencent

While the auto industry focused on electrification on the ground, developers of electric vehicle takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) are aiming to whisk passengers over urban traffic, cutting commutes down to 15 minutes or less. 

"I have spent my career in mobility and been part of the electrification of the automotive industry. The market and societal potential from the electrification of air travel is enormous. I, and the whole team at Qell, are excited for the impact Lilium can have and the part we can play," said Engle. 

Lilium's first aircraft was 5-passenger (4 passengers and a pilot) eVTOL aircraft, which the company began testing in 2019. The 5-Passenger Jet had a top speed of 186 mph and a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles). The aircraft was powered by 36 electric motors. 

However, as part of the announcement of launching its U.S. IPO, Liluim announced a new, larger 7-passenger version of the eVTOL aircraft this week that the company plans to utilize in a commercial air taxi service.

The 7-Seater Lilium Jet will be Lilium's first aircraft to go into serial production. Lilium said its aircraft will have 30 times fewer components than a commercial airliner and is designed to be easily manufactured and scalable. Lilium said its is applying automotive-style methods for manufacturing including a fully automated high-quality production of its engines, actuators and batteries.

The 7-Seater Lilium Jet is capable of quiet vertical take-off, allowing Lilium access to more landing sites and the opportunity to build higher network density, avoiding the need for expensive ground infrastructure. 

In January, Lilium announced plans to build a futuristic "vertiport" in the state of Florida together with transportation infrastructure developer Ferrovial based in Madrid, Spain. It's the first of ten vertiports Lilium plans to build in the U.S. together with Ferrovial.

The vertiports will support a high speed, zero emissions and affordable air transportation service to connect communities in Florida and beyond. Ferrovial and Lilium will collaborate in designing and constructing the vertiport facilities, as well as the operation and maintenance of the vertiports for an passenger service.  

The 7-Seater Lilium Jet and regional shuttle service business model are projected to deliver the "best unit economics, with passenger and enterprise opportunities", the company said.

The Lilium 7-Seater Jet has a projected cruising speed of 175 mph at an altitude of 10,000 feet and a range of 155+ miles, including reserves. It's a result of five years of technology development with four generations of eVTOL aircraft.

Lilium has successfully developed, tested and refined the underlying technology for electric vertical take-off and landing jets. The company's proprietary Ducted Electric Vectored Thrust ("DEVT") technology, along with key control systems, aircraft and battery architecture. 

The Lilium Jet's engines face downward like a rocket to take-off, then pivot to a horizontal position for flight. Once airborne, lift is provided by the wings and the electric jets are used solely for propulsion. 

Lilium_R003_jet-front-view_screen-1068x755.jpeg

The Lilium Jet's "electric engines" as the company calls them, are designed to be ultra-quiet with air ducts that dissipate noise before it leaves the engine, so they are suitable for dense urban areas where noise is a concern. 

Distributed vectored thrust delivered by the electric engines allows for precision control of the aircraft when it transitions from hover flight to forward, wing-borne flight. Lilium says this maneuver is the most aerodynamically challenging phase of flight for eVTOL aircraft. 

Lilium is partnering with Lufthansa Aviation Training to train its pilots.

Lilium applied for concurrent type certification for a high-capacity aircraft with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. FAA in 2018. Development of the 7-Seater Lilium Jet began in stealth mode shortly after. In 2020 the 7-Seater Lilium Jet received CRI-A01 certification from the EASA.

Since its founding in 2015, Lilium has attracted more than $375 million in funding from investors, including Atomico, Tencent, Baillie Gifford and Freigeist Capital. Baillie Gifford is known for investing in major technology companies such as Amazon, Tesla, SpaceX and Spotify. 

Lilium has offices in Munich, Zurich, London, and Washington D.C.

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