Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Xpeng’s two-ton eVTOL flying car successfully completes maiden flight

Futurists have dreamt of flying cars for decades, but the dream of flying in these vehicles over traffic jams has yet to come true. Many builders and startups strive to put the first models on the market, with the certainty that customers will not be lacking, but none of them have ever been mass-produced.

The Chinese automaker XPeng wants to offer a true flying car you can drive around on the highway and then lift off vertically to cruise over traffic jams. Now, XPeng AeroHT, an affiliate of XPeng, unveiled the latest version of the world’s first fully electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) flying car at XPeng’s recent 1024 Tech Day event in China earlier this week. The latest flying car, X3 (internal code name), is designed for both air flight and road driving.

The company says the XPeng eVTOL air flying car “is comparable with any conventional cars in terms of functionality and measurement” in driving mode. And “in flight mode, the flying car is piloted using the steering wheel and the right-hand gear lever as controls to move forward and backward, make turns, ascend, hover, and descend.” XPeng’s flying car can fly over traffic congestion, obstacles, and rivers to meet a new host of short-distance mobility needs.

Weighing in at 1,936 kg (4,268 lb), the flying car is powered by eight electric motors, each of which has an 11.5-foot diameter propeller attached. The latest version is much closer to what the company hopes to put into production. The X3 conveniently features a sleek rotor fold-away system for seamless conversation between driving and flying. The enormous eight-rotor coaxial vertical lift system is mounted on top, and the propulsion units are mounted to what looks like steel girders.

The car’s weight could end up being more than four times higher and can only fly two passengers, as lifting a 2-ton vehicle alone requires a tremendous amount of electricity. Adding the weight of people and cargo will make that more challenging.

In addition, the air taxi is equipped with a new flight control system equipped with fault-tolerant control functions and a dual-engine backup system to ensure safety. With a horizontal dual-rotor structure optimized to a new distributed multi-rotor configuration, the overall system design complexity has also been reduced to further enhance flight safety and reliability.

There is no information about the range or endurance of the vehicle. AeroHT says the test vehicle of the new flying car has successfully completed its maiden flight as well as multiple single-motor failure tests. The company plans to refine the design of the flying car a bit more before putting it into production, but the latest concept is 80% similar to the final design, they say.

XPeng AeroHT is also working on an eVTOL air taxi design, which has just been flown for the public in Dubai.