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Xpeng's flying car, is it a capital game or a future trend?
On October 24, it was the third 1024 Tech Day of Xpeng. At the meeting, the firm proposed its 6th–generation of flying car plan. He said the firm aims to have the flying car in mass production by 2024, with a price tag expected to be under RMB 1 million ($157,000).
In addition, Mr. He Xiaopeng, Chairman & CEO of XPeng, also revealed some details about the car. He said: "This is not just a flying car. It can also drive across the road. To achieve this goal, XPeng is working on the latest technology of propeller blades, and the safety of the vehicle for takeoff, navigation and landing. The weight of the low-altitude aircraft is 50 percent that of the Xpeng P7."
Why does Xpeng eye on flying cars? What are the advantages for the firm to build flying cars?
What are the advantages for Xpeng to build flying cars?
A video showed a rendering of a more attractive car than the P7. The sixth generation of Xpeng's flying car can convert from an ordinary car into a flying car through a folding rotary mechanism. It has a steering wheel for road operations as well as a single arm for flight modes.
He Xiaopeng said that this flying car driving is not complicated, as long as you can drive, you can drive it easily. In addition, he is extremely optimistic about flying cars, he once said, in the next few years, China will definitely open the ultra-low altitude or called low-altitude field for civilian use. Therefore, the product that Xpeng is developing has great potential.
Up to now, Xpeng has been exploring flying cars for nearly seven years and has launched several flying cars, such as Xpeng T1 and Xpeng X2.
In September 2020, Xpeng presented a flying car concept at the Beijing Auto Show, named Xpeng T1. The flying vehicle can hold up to two passengers and is designed for low altitudes of 5 meters to 25 meters (16.4 feet to 82 feet), and had an intelligent interaction system, according to Xpeng.
In July 2021, Xpeng announced a new five-generation flying car Xpeng X2, which has more flight data and other specific details than that was launched in 2020. For example, Xpeng X2's power system is battery electric, it has the endurance for 35 minutes of flight time, and can reach a maximum speed of 130 km/h (80 mph).
In addition, the firm said the X2 is designed with multiple sensors to achieve environmental awareness, with independent and autonomous flight path planning capabilities and autonomous return capability.
The advantages for Xpeng to build flying cars is from its affiliate HT Aero. HT Aero was co-founded by He Xiaopeng and Zhao Deli.
According to some reports, HT Aero has just raised over $500 million for its Series A capital funding. And the investors include IDG Capital, 5Y Capital and XPeng and Sequoia China.
The automotive industry insiders pointed out that the development of flying cars is not simply assemble the propeller on the car, the manufacturing process involves two major areas of automotive manufacturing and aviation manufacturing. It requires a large of capital investment and technical investment.
Whether current automotive safety standards can be applied to flying cars is worth thinking. So, even if the flying car technology can achieve mass production, there is still a big problem: can drivers get on the road without a relevant aircraft license? This still faces huge legal risks.
Is the flying car really here?
The concept of flying cars is actually not that rare, and star companies around the world are constantly trying to make it a reality. Porsche, for example, had a related experiment more than a decade ago, and Geely in China has also announced a flying car concept, but for now, flying cars are still very far away for us.
According to statistics, more than 300 companies around the world have been developing vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (i.e. eVTOL), among which there are many aviation giants like Boeing and Airbus, as well as Internet and new energy vehicle giants like Tencent and Xpeng.
The current eVTOL concept products are design for the electric propulsion system, the use of propeller rotor flight, flight speed between 100 to 300 km per hour, can carry 2 to 5 passengers.
And some foreign companies that focus on research and development of eVTOL systems have been targeted by capital, such as SkyDrive, Joby Aviations, Kitty Hawk, Zee.Aero and so on. Those companies have received sufficient funds for research and development products, especially Joby Aviations has received four rounds of financing in just three years. The amount of financing is as high as 5.2 billion yuan.
The capital market in China has also begun to hype the flying car sector. A report shows that Xpeng, Geely, Tencent and other companies have begun to have a layout, Xpeng and Geely even presented their own flying car concept.
In addition to HT Aero, in September 2021, Autoflight, a leading R&D and manufacturing enterprise for autonomous electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has just received $100 million in Series A financing.
According to the analysis of well-known investors in the venture capital industry Tang Fei, the popularity of flying cars is mainly due to the fierce competition of new energy vehicle market, and the industry can not tell a new story. So, in order to attract the attention of investors, there will inevitably be some new ideas.
According to the analysis of the new energy vehicle industry, the current urban traffic is becoming increasingly congested, the transportation exists many pain points, and flying cars do have its convenience and necessity. However, with the wide use of those vehicles, there are a number of challenges, including regulation and safety issues.
So, what do you think? Could flying cars be our next ride by 2024? Perhaps, Xpeng can give the answer.