They Mean It: XPeng Tests Two-Ton eVTOL Flying Car Prototype

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Chinese automaker XPeng has updated the design of its AeroHT flying car, a luxury electric sports car with a roof-folding vertical-lift octacopter system. It sounds crazy, but a two-ton flying prototype indicates it’s not a joke.

When we first came across this machine about 12 months ago, it looked much cooler and was also much more dangerous. The original design of the HT Aero flying supercar used a much more compact VTOL system with just two electric rotors with large diameter blades. These were mounted on articulated arms designed to fold under the rear bodywork of the car, creating an exceptionally pretty, sci-fi-looking design, albeit at the expense of safety and complexity.

It makes sense that the company has changed things to an eight-accessory system for the latest design; this adds a lot of redundancy in case something goes wrong. However, it is much bulkier, and as a result, the new design looks less like a minority report hypercar and more like a luxury electric rally-raider with a huge box on top, as you can see in the rendered video below.

Latest XPENG AEROHT flying car unveiled

However, the dream is the same: Xpeng wants to offer a true flying car that can drive down the highway and then take off vertically to navigate over traffic jams. Started with a whopping $500 million bank account last year, AeroHT is also working on an eVTOL air taxi design, which has just flown for the public in Dubai. But that thing is a simple manned multicopter, like the ones we’ve seen many times before.

The eVTOL flying car, on the other hand, is the kind of crazy idea that very few companies are experimenting with, certainly no one with this kind of money behind them.

Why not? Well, if weight is the enemy of flight, it’s the deadly nemesis of electric VTOL flight, especially for straight wingless multicopter designs like this one, which need to constantly burn power to stay aloft. Lithium batteries are heavy enough that even single-purpose manned multicopter air taxis suffer from severely restricted autonomy and range figures.

This machine may become the world’s first street-legal eVTOL flying car.

AeroHT

Street legal electric cars are usually very heavy on their own; They need to pass crash tests. They need powertrains, suspension, brakes, big wheels, separate windshield wipers and cup holders for the road, along with big, heavy battery packs. AeroHT’s handy little air taxi weighs around 560kg (1,235lbs) with no one sitting in it, and still only gets around 35 minutes on battery. The weight of the flying car could end up being more than four times as much, and still only two people fly.

And yet, here we are looking at a full-size prototype of the X3 flying car prototype in the air. Weighing a whopping 1936kg (4268lbs), it roughly follows the body shape of the renders and looks great from the front. It looks a lot less cool from the sides and rear, but the bodywork is just bodywork.

The massive eight-rotor coaxial vertical lift system is mounted on top, in what appears to be a completely fixed configuration with no possibility of folding yet. With such mass to lift, the VTOL frame itself is very thick, and the propulsion units are mounted on what look like steel beams.

The Flying Car test vehicle made its maiden flight successfully

In the fight demo video above, the team successfully pulls the thing out of a garage under its own power. Then it takes off, hovers, cautiously flies a bit, and comes back for a nice soft-looking landing. AeroHT says it also ran multiple single-rotor failure tests.

No information is provided on range or endurance, and indeed, given the sheer volume of this strange machine, we’d be surprised if it can currently stay in the air long enough to hear a full song on the radio, and that’s presumably without the auto- folding arms and much of the road equipment. The company says it’s “comparable to any conventional car in terms of functionality and measurements,” rather than power or speed figures, and says that in flight mode, the driver/pilot will control the aircraft using the steering wheel and a right button. manual gear lever.

It’s no surprise that the X3 flies: it’s an aviation truism that with enough thrust, you can make a brick fly. The amazing thing about the X3 is that exists – it’s not a render, there’s a team, a prototype, a pretty healthy budget, and a plan to turn it into a product. AeroHT appears to be serious. We’ll be dumbfounded once again if this machine actually hits the market in 2024 as a street-legal flying car, but then AeroHT has half a billion dollars to play with, plus the friendly Chinese aviation and auto authorities to work with, who They have already shown that they are willing to give impressive leeway to companies that are moving to push technology forward.

It looks like you're carrying the world's largest Thule box
It looks like you’re carrying the world’s largest Thule box

AeroHT

Given that it appears to be designed as a personal-use aircraft rather than a commercial air taxi, it will probably only go through a small fraction of the red tape that other eVTOL companies are facing in their quest to obtain type certification. And we wonder what kind of tricks XPeng might have up its sleeve in terms of homologating this device for street use: the parent company is expanding its electric vehicle production capabilities at a fast pace.

So while it seems incredibly ambitious and probably impractical, this odd duck might have a better chance than most. An intriguing project and worth seeing.

Source: AeroHT


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