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Recent COVID restrictions in China have made the start of the year “more volatile and uncertain” for Chinese eVTOL developer EHang, according to the company’s founder, chair and CEO Huazhi Hu.
Though the pandemic isn’t completely to blame — with macroeconomics and geopolitical tensions also factoring into the pressures EHang has faced over the last few months — the virus did impact the company’s certification program, executives told shareholders during the company’s first quarter earnings call on May 31.
“Since the first quarter of this year, like most Chinese companies, we have been facing pressures, challenges and uncertainties due to the resurgence of COVID-19 in China and the stricter travel restrictions,” said Xin Fang, EHang’s chief operating officer, in remarks translated to English.
Fang said the company’s type certification process “was affected and has been slowed down,” with the restrictions hampering the company’s ability to engage with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The pandemic also impacted its tourism-related business, as its operational trial flights had to adhere to restrictions in certain tourist areas, Fang said.
But just how much the pandemic has impacted its certification program is unclear. EHang did not immediately return requests for clarity on its certification timeline, but executives told shareholders they planned to work with Chinese aviation authorities “to complete the certification work as soon as possible.”
“We remain confident in our long-term outlook going forward,” Fang said. The company had previously said it was targeting receiving type certification and launching commercial operations this year.
As for its supply chain, EHang executives reiterated its message to shareholders back in March, asserting that the pandemic hasn’t had an impact on its production plan since most of its suppliers are based in China.
“Due to the changes of the global landscape, we saw some price increase of some raw materials,” Fang said. “So, we did some preparation with some inventory of the key components and materials beforehand.”
The CAAC formally adopted the special conditions for the EH216-S type certification in February, which spells out the conditions that EHang would need to follow in order to get its EH216 autonomous passenger-carrying eVTOL aircraft type certified. The document includes criteria for specific categories, such as flight performance, structures, design and construction, and propulsion systems.
“Our technical team and airworthiness team are tackling challenges step by step and are continuing to explore and refine our means of compliance,” Hu said in his translated remarks.