Unlikely West Virginia is cautionary tale for states seeking eVTOL investment

Vertiport legislation pushed through by Supernal, Hyundai’s advanced air mobility arm, may create more problems than it solves.

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Release Date
May 23, 2022
Unlikely West Virginia is cautionary tale for states seeking eVTOL investment
Advanced air mobility has predominantly been sold to investors as technology that will transform urban mobility in an environmentally sustainable way. According to Hyundai, however, the future of AAM is actually in a rural state with a population half the size of Los Angeles that derives almost 90% of its electricity from coal.

That state is West Virginia, where Hyundai’s AAM subsidiary, Supernal, recently pushed through legislation relating to public-use vertiports while most of this nascent industry wasn’t paying attention. Called the Promoting Public-Use Vertiports Act, the legislation aims to prevent the monopolization of landing areas for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft by any one AAM operator. Supernal has a vested interest in that, as it doesn’t plan to commercialize its eVTOL air taxi until 2028, several years behind targets set by competitors like Archer and Joby Aviation.

Related: FAA changes course on eVTOL certification

Supernal’s lobbying efforts in West Virginia continue its pattern of acting opportunistically to advance legislation favorable to its interests wherever it sees an opening. Up until now, these efforts haven’t been especially controversial, mostly resulting in the creation of AAM study groups and advisory committees that should benefit the industry at large. 

However, the legislation in West Virginia, which Supernal is now promoting as a model for the rest of the industry, is more consequential — and problematic. Drafted and passed without broad stakeholder input, its ambiguous language leaves it open to multiple conflicting interpretations.

The situation in West Virginia illustrates how the competitive AAM industry, while generally aligned on many policy issues, has yet to coalesce behind a single platform or lobbying group for its advocacy. That puts state and local governments, most of which are still learning about AAM, in the difficult position of having to decide who actually speaks for the industry, and how to best shape legislation for technology that is still not well defined. 

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