Xpeng AeroHT, a subsidiary of Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Xpeng, aims to deliver its first flying vehicles as early as 2025. This announcement was made at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2024 presented this week in Las Vegas.
The first model that will be available for use by a new generation of travelers (who will have training as both a road vehicle driver and an aircraft pilot, hopefully) will be the Land Aircraft Carrier (LAC). This modular vehicle with six wheels and electric propulsion is designed to transport a small vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
Unique in its kind, this “road aircraft carrier” will be able to transport 4 or 5 people and its propulsion will drive all six wheels. It will even have all-wheel steering.
The LAC can be used as a recreational vehicle, but its “air mode” is what’s really interesting. Once engaged, in the blink of an eye, says the manufacturer, an elegant ballet will animate articulated panels at the rear of the vehicle. They will unfold to allow the unloading of a small aircraft.
Once on the ground, the electric motor-powered aircraft can fly at low altitudes. This aircraft will have a panoramic two-seater cabin offering a 270-degree view and can be piloted in manual or automatic mode. Additionally, its electric propulsion system will meet safety requirements in case of malfunction, the manufacturer assures.
Described as a “low-altitude aerial mobility exploration system,” the manufacturer hopes to open its order book by the end of 2024. The LAC may also be of interest to various public and private public service and emergency service providers.
Interestingly, the LAC was absent from the Xpeng AeroHT booth at CES. In a press release issued yesterday, the manufacturer acknowledged that “its final design is still in progress.” It is currently in the final validation stages, which will lead to mass production, the manufacturer explains.
However, the Chinese manufacturer showcased its latest version of the eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) vehicle, the flying car that it intends to commercialize “when the ideal political, regulatory and usage scenarios are met,” according to Xpeng’s statement.
CES visitors were able to get a close look at this prototype, as well as witness a demonstration of its operation on a large screen.
In road mode, the vehicle looks like a sleek two-seater with an unusually long but aesthetically integrated rear end.
When it switches to aerial mode, the eVTOL deploys four arms with rotors and blades. It can then perform vertical take-off. Like the small aircraft of the LAC, this electric flying car will be designed for short-distance trips at low altitudes.
“In 2013, we launched AeroHT dreaming of flying cars,” said Tan Wang, co-founder and vice president of Xpeng AeroHT, during the presentation of the eVTOL in Las Vegas.
“Fast forward to 2024, this dream has become a reality. Today, we are excited to unveil our two latest innovations that will soon allow people to go from driving on the road to flying in the air. The future is here today, and the whole world is ready to fly,” Mr. Wang adds.
It remains to be seen if the leaders of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will agree with Mr. Wang’s last statement…
Xpeng, an electric vehicle manufacturer (short for Xiaopeng) was founded in 2014 in Guangzhou by a quartet of businessmen, including He Xiaopeng, a former executive of Alibaba, and He Tao, a veteran of the Chinese automaker GAC.
Its current lineup includes five different models that cover the main segments of the Chinese automotive market. Its latest model, the seven-seater X9 van, debuted on January 1st of this year.
Far from being a giant like BYD, this manufacturer only delivered 141,601 electric vehicles in 2023. This brings its total deliveries to 400,311 vehicles since the first Xpeng P7 sedan, a model very similar to a Tesla Model S, was handed over to its buyer in June 2020.
However humble, this progress has not stopped this manufacturer from having big ambitions. It is already heavily focused on exports. in November 2020, Xpeng entered the European market. After establishing itself in Norway, it entered Denmark, then the Netherlands and Sweden. The company is now preparing to launch its products in Germany and will do so later this year in ten other markets, including the UK, Italy, and France. Xpeng has also been present in Israel since 2023.