June 5, 2023

They’re serious: XPeng is testing a two-ton eVTOL flying car prototype

Chinese automaker XPeng has updated the design of its AeroHT flying car – a luxury electric sports car with a folding, vertically-elevating octacopter system on the roof. It looks completely nuts, but a two-ton flying prototype proves that this is no joke.

When we first came across this machine about 12 months ago, it looked a lot cooler and was also a lot more dangerous. The original HT Aero flying supercar design used a much more compact VTOL system with only two electric rotors on large diameter wings. They were mounted on articulated arms designed to swing away under the car’s rear body, making for an exceptionally beautiful and sci-fi-looking design, albeit at the expense of safety and complexity.

It makes sense that the company has replaced the eight propeller systems with the latest design – this adds a bunch of redundancy should one fail. However, it is much bulkier and as a result the new design looks less a Minority Report hypercar and more like a luxury electric rally track topped with a massive box as you can see in the rendering video below.

The newest XPENG AEROHT flying car is revealed

However, the dream is the same: Xpeng wants to offer a real flying car that you can drive around on the highway and then take off vertically to cruise over traffic jams. Launched last year with a whopping half a billion dollar bank account, AeroHT is also working on the design of an eVTOL air taxi that has just flown to the public in Dubai. But it’s a simple manned multicopter, the likes of which we’ve seen many times before.

The eVTOL flying car, on the other hand, is the kind of crazy idea that few other companies will even try — certainly not anyone with that kind of money behind them.

Why not? Well, if weight is the enemy of flight, it’s the mortal enemy of electric VTOL flight – especially in a straight wingless multicopter like this, which has to constantly burn energy to stay airborne. Lithium batteries are heavy enough that even single-use manned multi-copter air taxis suffer from very limited endurance and operational range.

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


Street-legal electric cars are typically very heavy in their own right; they must pass crash tests. They need separate road drivetrains, suspension, brakes, big wheels, windshield wipers and cup holders, and awesome big heavy batteries. AeroHT’s practical little flying taxi weighs about 560 kg (1,235 lb) without anyone sitting in it, and yet the battery lasts only about 35 minutes. A flying car can weigh more than four times as much and still only fly two people.

And yet here we are looking at a full-sized prototype of the X3 flying car prototype in the air. Weighing in at an eye-popping 1,936 kg (4,268 lb), it roughly follows the hull shape of the renders and looks pretty cool from the front. It looks a lot less neat from the sides and back, but the bodywork is just bodywork.

A huge eight-rotor coaxial vertical lift system is mounted on top of what appears to be a completely fixed assembly with no ability to fold away. With such liftable mass, the VTOL body itself is very thick, and the propulsion units are mounted on what look like steel girders.

The flying car test vehicle made its maiden flight successfully

In the battle demo video above, the team successfully drives the thing out of the garage under its own power. Then it takes off, hovers, gently flies for a bit and comes back in for a nice gentle looking landing. AeroHT says it has also performed several single-rotor failure tests.

There’s no word on range or endurance, and indeed, given the bulk of this strange machine, we’d be surprised if it can currently stay in the air long enough to listen to an entire song on the radio – and that’s presumably without the automatic folding arms and much of the road equipment. The company says it’s “comparable to any conventional car in function and measurement” rather than power or speed figures, and says that in flight mode the driver/pilot controls the aircraft using a steering wheel and a right-hand steering wheel. manual transmission lever.

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

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


Since this appears to be designed for personal use rather than a commercial air taxi, it will likely endure only a fraction of the red tape that other eVTOL companies are staring down as they seek type approval. And we wonder what tricks XPeng might have up its sleeve to get this thing street-legal – the parent company is rapidly expanding its EV production capacity.

So while it seems incredibly ambitious and probably impractical, this odd duck might have a better chance than most. An interesting project and something to watch.

Source: AeroHT

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