Xpeng Motors is not only aiming to take Tesla’s laurels, but also to launch a flying car by 2024. It is no longer too bold to assume that urban transport will change radically in the coming decades, with the emergence of self-driving cars and the equally important role of air taxis, which are now being developed by countless companies around the world. For a long time, the advance of eVTOLs seemed to suck the last little air out of ideas focused on developing a conventional flying car, but the announcement by China’s XPeng on Sunday could give a new impetus to the development of winged cars.
In principle, flying cars are not entirely new, as the first such vehicle was developed almost fifty years ago, and if we interpret the concept of a flying car loosely enough, we can actually already have one today, with PAL-V’s Liberty flying car and others in development such as AKSA and Slovakia’s AirCar.
The flying car being developed by HT Aero, a subsidiary of XPeng, follows a different concept: the car, which still only exists on a visual level, looks like a conventional car, lifted into the air by retractable propellers protruding from its sides. How well this will work in practice is hard to say without a prototype. Today’s air taxis are typically lifted into the air by many more propellers, but HT Aero has a long history of developing similar vehicles: the Voyager X2 and its predecessors – which were more like conventional air taxis than flying cars – have been tested more than 15,000 times, according to the manufacturer.
No more was revealed about the concept car unveiled at Tech Day, but the manufacturer is optimistic that the car could be on the market as early as 2024. Given the XPeng’s progress, that doesn’t seem too far-fetched, given that the 2014-founded EV company launched its first electric car, the G3 SUV, just three years ago in 2018, and has already sold 13,000 units of the G3 and the P7 sedan, launched last year, in the first quarter of 2021.
The latter model has been said by many to be somewhat reminiscent of Tesla cars, but if you’re looking for parallels, you don’t have to stop at the look of the cars. XPeng announced not only the flying car at the launch, but also an improved version of their driver assistance system called Xpilot, which will also have a number of features that Teslas can have. For example, Xpilot 3.5, coming in 2022, will extend the Navigation Guided Pilot feature, which will allow their cars to drive autonomously not only on the highway, but also in urban environments. A whole new sensor package is also being introduced, including a LIDAR sensor, which means that XPeng cars may perform slightly better in urban traffic than Teslas, which are known for their lack of expensive LIDAR technology, which most manufacturers believe is indispensable for self-driving cars.
XPeng has also announced a new supercharging technology that will be introduced in their X-Power fast chargers, which promises to charge your car battery for 200 kilometres in just 5 minutes. XPeng, like Tesla, operates a fully autonomous supercharger network in China, currently consisting of 439 charging stations, which when fully deployed will be able to charge 30 cars at a time at each station.