Elmer Francisco, 45, of e-Franscisco Motor Corp (eFMC, left), and Santh Sathya, 54, CEO and founder of LuftCar
Elmer Francisco, 45, of e-Franscisco Motor Corp (eFMC, left), and Santh Sathya, 54, CEO and founder of LuftCar recently announced a joint venture to mass produce reusable flying modules and detachable vans – powered by hydrogen – which could change the economics of electric vertical-take-off-landing (eVTOL) transport. Image Credit: Linkedin | Facebook

Manila: US-based Filipino entrepreneur Elmer Francisco and Indian inventor Santh Santhya believe hydrogen is the future. Together, they think the time is ripe for flying detachable vans for last-mile delivery tasks.

Francisco, 45, a physicist and MIT-educated innovator, is the visionary behind e-Francisco Motors Corp (eFMC) who recently signed a deal with Sathya, an engineer who founded LuftCar, a Florida-based company. The two said they are working together on a new way to hop from one place, or island, to another, powered by hydrogen.

Loftier goal

Francisco is a scion of “jeepney” builders in the Philippines. Now, the entrepreneur who regularly shuttles between California and Manila, has set his sights on a loftier goal with LuftCar founder Sathya, an Indian-American hydrogen innovator.

Sathya, 54, hopes to cash in on the multi-billion-dollar global, multi-party eVTOL air taxi race. The deal will require them to work on building the next-generation flying vehicles and the ecosystem to realise various use cases of detachable aerial vans.

Both Sathya, who has a US master’s degree in engineering, and Harvard-educated Francisco are US citizens.

LuftCar-eFMC venture
The LuftCar-eFMC venture aims to mass produce the hydrogen-powered eVTOL flying vans in a Special Economic Zone south-east of Manila, where they also produce the hydrogen fuel. Image Credit: LuftCar

“According to ‘Back to the Future’ movie, we'll have flying cars by 2015. We're 9 years too late and I'm not gonna allow it to reach 10. We're doing this now,” Francisco stated in a LinkedIn post.

Sathya says they offer a pragmatic solution which will prove valuable in connecting more than 7,600+ islands comprising the Philippine archipelago.

“We are excited about partnering with eFMC, whose leadership has a clear vision for clean energy transportation for the Philippines. eFMC has the resources to support LuftCar in bringing meaningful air transport to the people in the region,” Sathya said in a media statement.

How to fund the project?

One is through venture capitalists and angel investors.

In August, Sathya announced that LuftCar has received a term sheet offer for $100 million from a well known venture capitalist towards Series A funding.

When will it fly?

A prototype is expected within the next “couple of months”, they said. They are eyeing to mass produce the flying vans in Camarines Norte,which hosts a new 200-hectare Special Economic Zone 330km southeast of Manila. Francisco says well-managed collaborations will turn their bluepints to prototypes and, eventually, production units.

Under the deal, LuftCar will produce the air module, Francisco Motors will produce the land module.

“As a physicist, my mind has been trained to believe that if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room,” said Francisco.

Why hydrogen?

Luftcar is envisioned to be the first hydrogen powered air/road eVTOL vehicle.

“The world is calling for a cleaner energy shift, and hydrogen emerges as a promising solution,” Francisco said.

The eVTOL technology is tailored to meet the unique demands of the Philippines. Besides last-mile delivery, the technology can be used across various sectors, including public transportation, fast urban connectivity, last-mile delivery, tourism, emergency response, disaster relief, law enforcement, defence, and border patrol.

Francisco, who also holds a post-grad from Wharton, has transformed the FMC, and re-engineered the “jeepney” to ride on the new wave of transport modernisation in the country.

Sathya sees huge possibilities with the LuftCar PINOY eVTOL project. Reusability of the flying modules could mean more vans can be put to work for last-mile delivery, before being fuelled up to fly with the next available module.