What’s in store for the future of electric flying cars? Flying cars are technically already available, but they’re far from the mainstream. Will they become the norm? Are they better for the environment? Here are three of the latest electric flying car prototypes that give us hints about where flying cars are headed and where the future of sustainable mobility is taking us.
XPENG’s X2 low-altitude flying car
In early October 2022, XPENG conducted its first public flight of the company’s flying electric car, the X2, at Skydive Dubai. The car had completed its operations risk assessment and achieved a special flying permit from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) for the event. The demonstration was part of the GITEX Global tech show at the Dubai World Trade Center.
The event was for more than showing off the car’s capabilities. DCAA reviewers appraised the XPENG X2 for stability and standardization of the entire flight operation process. Additionally, the car takes off vertically and hovers like a helicopter or drone.
XPENG subsidiary XPENG AEROHT is the largest flying car company in Asia, meaning it has a good shot at making this car a reality for the average driver. That is if regulations are put in place to make it possible and infrastructure is developed to allow people to use these unique flying cars. The world is currently racing to update the electric grid to provide charging capabilities for electric cars on the ground, so flying cars are an extra step above that. But it’s doable in the long term.
The XPENG X2 is a two-seater flying car that can be driven in manual or autonomous modes. It’s designed for low-altitude city flights, such as medical transportation and sightseeing. It’s possible that this flying car will be used for tourism, local airport or medical transport, or as a replacement for drone deliveries.
Jetson Aero’s flying “Jetski” car
Jetson Aero, the company that makes the Jetson One, is a collaboration between Peter Ternstrom, a Swedish entrepreneur, and co-founder Tomasz Patan. The Jetson One aims to be the jetski of the skies. In fact, co-founder Ternstrom was inspired by sci-fi’s flying cars from a young age.
“So that’s why it makes me really happy to be able to at least provide the first little step in the creation of a flying car with the Jetson One,” he says.
The co-founders told Euro News that they had underestimated the challenges of weight and aerodynamics when designing early prototypes. It took a while to get off the ground with this new flying car design.
It took Ternstrom and Patan four years to launch their prototype of the Jetson One to market in October 2021. That’s actually not that long of a design cycle, though. Most automotive designs were designed on a seven-year cycle until recent acceleration, and that’s not for a company with a ground-up design that flies rather than drives on wheels.
How can you get a flying car in the air when regulations don’t permit it yet? The Jetson One weighs 190 lbs (86 kg) and has a flight time of 20 minutes per charge, which complies with U.S. regulations that don’t require a pilot’s license to fly it. The designers of this flying car are getting around current regulation limitations by creating a car that is designed as a pleasurecraft. And those regulations are coming. It just takes time for the FAA to catch up on creating rules for entirely new types of vehicles and new flight corridors in the skies.
What makes this flying car viable for the average driver is that the vehicle has built-in navigation controls that don’t require a pilot’s license to know how to operate it. The highly-automated software system makes Jetson One easy to fly even for a novice. This flying car comes with Lidar sensing and an automatic landing system.
Jetson Aero is accepting orders for 2023 after the product line sold out for 2022. The cost is currently 80,000 Euros. This car is not illegal to drive, but it’s not technically legal either so time will tell. But Europe is already planning air taxis. Eventually, regulations will catch up.
Aeromobil flying car
Aeromobil makes the new AM 4.0, which is a flying car that converts from a ground vehicle. Designed for the higher end of the market, Aeromobil’s cars combine automotive and aerospace design with advanced materials and luxury features to create a sort of crossover of supercar and private jet.
What if you didn’t need a private jet and only needed to hop in your flying car? It’s a tempting vision, actually. The Aeromobil cars can transform from car to aircraft faster than a James Bond Aston puts on plate armor only to fall off a cliff — in under three minutes.
Ten years of research and 350,000 hours of engineering and design went into Aeromobil’s flying cars. They look like small fixed-wing planes with wheels at 20 feet long and a folding wingspan of 30 feet. This flying carmaker boasts talent from top automotive and aerospace companies, including BMW, Aston Martin, McLaren, Mercedes Benz F-1 and Ferrari F-1, Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce and Airbus.
The AM 2 is a two-seater, and AM 4 is a four-seater. The base model is a hybrid with a combustion engine with 300 brake horsepower and a constant-speed propeller. The driving range is 600 miles while the flying range is 460 miles. This flying car comes with a parachute in case of emergency and autonomous flight gear. It’s also considered a standard commuter or aerobatic plane that requires a pilot’s license (and a runway) as it comes with an aerospace certification of CS-23.
When will flying cars come to market?
Two key issues block flying cars from going mainstream: the regulation of air space and practicality. In other words, infrastructure is the main problem. Flying cars have to be affordable to be widely adopted beyond the current high-end early adopter market. They also have to have special roads or flight paths built as well as takeoff and landing pads in convenient locations for people to really use them as daily drivers.
Do you think your neighborhood is ready for flying cars? The cool thing is that there are options now. If you want a flying car, you can go get one with relative ease. Just do your homework on how you are allowed to use it.
Images via XPENG, Jetson Aero and Aeromobil