When Henry Ford first invented the motor cars in 1896, he was revolutionary. After all, when he asked people what they wanted, they responded with “faster horses”!
Yet he was an innovator. A disruptor.
The same is now true for the innovators working on flying cars.
Will flying cars become an integral part of the future of urban mobility?
What are flying cars?
A flying car is a vehicle that has dual operation to be able to both drive on the ground and also fly in the air.
Flying cars are not a new concept, but they have yet to become a reality for the masses. The primary hurdles revolve around the challenges of designing and building a safe and practical flying car. And there are also regulatory hurdles to be overcome getting them approved for use on both roads and in the skies.
There are a number of entities around the world working on flying car projects. So it seems likely that we will see some form of flying car become available to consumers in the next few years.
Most flying cars are now what is known as Vertical Take-Off and Landing flying cars – commonly referred to as VTOLs. These are the ones that the research and development has focused on.
The market for flying cars is generally referred to as “urban air mobility” and a key focus of this segment is sustainable and safe urban transport mobility.GET A FREE INSTALLATION QUOTE
XPeng launches its latest electric flying car
Last month, Chinese electric vehicle XPeng publicly launched its fifth generation X2 flying car at Skydive Dubai as part of the 2022 Gitex Trade Show.
Most prototype VTOLs look like small planes with stronger wheels.
But the X2 prototype is unique because it actually looks like a car but just with propellors.
The flying car, produced by Xpeng Aeroht, is powered by an electric motor, so is an eVTOL. It received a special flying permit from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority before the public display, after jumping through a number of certifications.
“The first global public flight of the X2 flying car will change the game of future mobility,” said acting president and CEO Hassan Al Hashemi. “The flying car is the epitome of ambition, innovation and future-oriented vision that has always inspired Dubai and its leadership. Today, we witnessed a historic moment that will define the next 50 years.”
The XPeng 2 is designed for short-distance city trips like sightseeing and medical transportation and works well for future low-altitude city flights.
XPeng Aeroht also provided updates on its prototype for its 6th generation X2, which will have actual wheels to drive on land.
Key Features of the XPeng X2 Flying Car
Key features of the XPeng X2 include:
- Vertical Take-Off and Landing (“VTOL”)
- Two-seat carbon fibre shell
- Electric BMW engine
- Range of 500 kms
- Powered by eight propellers – 2 at each corner.
- Retractable wings
- ballistic parachute
- enclosed cockpit with minimalist teardrop shape
- two driving modes – manual and independent
- Expected to cost around US$600,000 to $700,000.
XPeng says that passengers will have a safe and intelligent flight experience with the autonomous flight because they will be able to start, return, and land with just the press of a button.
Autonomous Flying Cars – Wisk Aero launches Generation 6
Beyond the Xpeng X2 as an electric flying car, there are also autonomous electric flying cars.
Wisk Aero is one of the companies at the forefront of futuristic technological advancements in urban air mobility. Wisk Aero has just launched the world’s first autonomous, all-electric, four-seat eVTOL air taxi. Wisk Aero has been working on flying cars (formerly as Kitty Hawk) since 2010.
Their Generation 6 flying car launched just a few weeks ago, is the most advanced in the world and exceeds all required safety standards, with full US Federal Aviation Authority approval.
It has autonomous flight with human oversight, and delivers exceptional customer satisfaction with its incredible sophistication. The Wisk Aero flying plane is a huge advancement and is intended to be accessible to a wide audience. Wisk Aero intends to make it much more affordable so it’s accessible for a larger part of the population.
In fact, Wisk Aero is committed in it’s partnership with Queensland to to make flying taxis an option for the Brisbane 2032 Olympics.
Wisk’s Becky Tanner says: “You can land on existing infrastructure such as helipads, a small place out in a parking lot, on rooftops of buildings.”
The proposal aims to bring in “high-value jobs for air taxi maintenance and operations” while increasing regional access to public transport closer to city centres.
Volocopter, a German urban air mobility company, is also nipping at the heels of flying car development. They have a range of products they are developing to bring to market, and already have agreements with several major cities to provide flying cars.
Why do we need flying cars?
You might say that the biggest drawcard for flying cars is that they look super cool!
But flying cars have a significant role to play in the future of sustainable transport and sustainable cities.
Are Flying Cars part of the future of sustainable urban mobility?
Although companies such as Uber are aiming for the first commercial flights of electric flying cars within the next few years, there are still a lot of question marks around this technology. Will it actually be useful and not just a novelty, and more importantly, will it have a positive or a negative impact on the environment?
From the recent research carried out, it appears that at this stage they are only worth using for longer trips, perhaps going between towns or cities that are over 50km apart from one another. In this scenario, the efficient cruise phase and high speeds make up for the inefficient take of and landing stages.
Can VTOLs, and particularly eVTOLs, work as a practical transport solution in our cities?
It’s clear that VTOLs will definitely feature as part of a sustainable urban transport mobility, probably for smaller passenger numbers. But flying cars certainly have a significant role to play as part of sustainable transport mobility solutions in our cities.
And alongside this we need to ensure that they use sustainable and renewable energy.
Check out our blog post next week for more info on flying cars generally and how they work.
Some of the topics we will address include:
- the pros and cons of flying cars
- the history of flying cars
- how do electric VTOLs (eVTOLs) charge? and
- how and where will flying cars park and take off.