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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Panhwar Jet Takes Flight With Wind-Powered Planes

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Orange County’s emerging base of electric vehicle companies is now looking skyward.

Panhwar Jet Inc., an upstart Newport Beach-based company that aims to build luxury, all-electric aircraft that can charge in-flight, this month announced a $10 million Series A funding deal, which comes just ahead of a September unveiling of its first prototype and test flight.

Valkyrie Group, a venture capital firm with offices in Newport Beach and Utah, provided the funding and said it anticipates moving ahead with a $100 million Series B round, potentially by the end of the year.

“This is revolutionary technology in the all-electric aircraft space,” Chad Swensen, founder and managing partner of Valkyrie Group, told the Business Journal.

It’s among the larger reported investments by Valkyrie, formed in 2018. The VC, whose partners include ex-Goldman Sachs heavy hitter Mark McGoldrick, earlier this year invested $25 million into Aneira Pharma Inc., a San Diego-based drug company focused on hair loss. In addition to biotech and aerospace, the VC is looking to invest in real estate.

CSUF Incubator

Panhwar was founded in 2019 by Ayisha Fareed and her husband, Nick Panhwar, serial entrepreneurs who previously started two other tech firms. The new company was formed in California State University, Fullerton’s Startup Incubator program.

The company is developing the “ElectroBird,” a two-seater electric plane that promises to fly at speeds up to 350 mph and travel some 2,000 miles.

Panhwar’s technology is said to use small battery packs for takeoff and landing, but generates power during flight by converting wind into energy.

More established firms have attempted EV planes. Panhwar cites Rolls-Royce as its main competitor in the electric vehicle space; that company’s initial test vehicles, which were unveiled earlier this year, are said to approach 300 mph with a maximum flight time of 2 hours.

Panhwar officials say it expects their EV aircraft to fly up to 12 hours without touching down. The company is aiming for FAA certification for its planes by 2023, and projects that the startup could deliver its first planes to customers that same year.

According to John Jackson, director for the Center for Entrepreneurship at CSUF, ElectroBird’s maiden voyage is planned in late September, during which the company is aiming to break multiple world records for an EV aircraft.

Utah Production

Valkyrie Group’s Swensen said his firm is planning to help the company raise an additional $100 million for the upstart firm by the end of the year.

Valkyrie is “fully committed” to supporting Panhwar Jet in realizing the full potential of its technology in electric aviation, he said.

While the aerospace firm’s headquarters will be in Newport Beach, production will take place in Heber City, Utah. Swensen said the company’s received interest from regional aviation companies for as many as 20 planes.

Some of the next round of funds will be used for hangar space, he said.

Cluster

Panhwar joins the ranks of OC aerospace firms with unique transportation concepts in the very early stages of development.

Other well-funded firms include Lake Forest’s Karem Aircraft Inc., an aerospace development firm that makes manned and unmanned rotorcraft vehicles mainly for the military.

In 2019, it spun off a venture to build an all-electric air taxi vehicle for Uber. That venture, Overair, landed $25 million in funds from South Korea’s Hanwha Systems

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Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp is a staff reporter and occasional photojournalist for the Orange County Business Journal. Her beats include — but are not limited to — healthcare, startups, and education. While pursuing her bachelors in literary journalism at UC Irvine, she interned for New York-based magazine Narratively Inc., wrote for Costa Mesa-based lifestyle magazine Locale, and covered the underground music scene for two SoCal-based music publications. She is an unwavering defendant of the emdash and the Oxford comma.

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