[INTERVIEW] ‘Giving wings to cars’: XPeng AeroHT on winning the sky race

입력
Tan Wang, co-founder of XPeng AeroHT [XPENG AEROHT]

With the race to develop a flying car already in full swing, all eyes are now on who will takeoff first.

Guangzhou-based XPeng AeroHT, an affiliate of XPeng, a Chinese EV maker, aims to be the first mover with its plan to launch preorders of its flying car starting in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Our product is a flying car, which is primarily a car but also takes to the skies when needed,” Tan Wang, co-founder and chief designer of XPeng AeroHT said in a recent email interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“Most products from other countries were mainly in the form of electric vertical takeoff and landing [eVTOL] aircraft, lacking the capability for ground transportation.”

A Ferrari-looking supercar with eight propellers caught the public’s eye on the show floor of the CES 2024 trade show last month in Las Vegas.

The displayed mockup was neither completely a car nor a helicopter but a flying car, in the words of XPeng AeroHT, which it says can drive on both land and sky.

XPeng AeroHT has introduced various electric aircraft including X1 and X2. With X1 succeeding in its demonstration flight in 2021, it ran over more than 10,000 flight tests.

Established in 2014, the flying car developer has raised $500 million in Series A funding from eight investors including GGV Capital and Sequoia Capital.

Q. Briefly introduce XPeng AeroHT’s flying car product. How far has the development process come so far?
A. Having completed all key tests of the research and development [R&D] validation phase, our modular flying car has now entered the preparation stage for mass production. Though the final design is still in development, it already boasts a futuristic, cyber-mechanical aesthetic, characterized by sharp lines and sleek surfaces, reminiscent of a “lunar exploration vehicle.”

The flying car is designed for flying, road commuting and off-road driving. It not only meets users’ daily ground travel needs but also evolves the travel experience. XPeng AeroHT will continue to explore potential applications in public services for this innovative product.

XPeng AeroHT is thrilled to announce that our flying car will become available to pre-order in the fourth quarter and we aim to deliver to individual users from the fourth quarter of 2025.

XPeng AeroHT's flying car is on display at CES 2024 which ended last month in Las Vegas [SARAH CHEA]

Can you give us some more details about your flying car?
The flying car can accommodate four to five passengers and the extended-range electric powertrain provides multiple recharges for the air module. The three-axle, six-wheel configuration enables six-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering.

It is a fully electric piloted aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and low-altitude flight. The electric propulsion system meets single-point failure safety requirements. The car will support both manual and automatic driving modes, providing an accessible flying experience.

The 270-degree panoramic two-person cockpit offers a vast field of view.

There have been a few flying cars showcased at CES 2024 including Supernal’s S-A2. Who is your biggest competitor and what is your key differentiation compared to peers?
The market for flying cars is expansive and has room for various players. The unique product positioning, characteristics and target markets of XPeng AeroHT differentiate us from the others.

We respect the achievements these companies have made in the eVTOL field. Whether it’s eVTOL, flying cars, or the market for urban air travel, it is currently a blue ocean market with enough space to accommodate different participants.

XPeng AeroHT will focus on its unique product road map and realize the dream of “giving wings to cars.” That means we’re determined to create the safest, intelligent electric flying cars for customers and provide a better, more efficient and liberating travel experience.

We believe the greatest difference lies in that our product is a flying car, which is primarily a car but can also take to the skies when needed. Fundamentally, most of the products previously presented at CES were mainly in the form of eVTOLs, lacking the capability for ground transportation.

Did XPeng AeroHT already create contracts for the flying car?
Recently, the Nanhu Institute of Transportation Sciences has placed an order for 100 units with us. These will be utilized for comprehensive management in various transportation sectors such as roads and waterways, as well as to provide experiences at flying camps and transportation connections between stations.

Do you have any business partnerships with any Korean companies or are you in any talks?
Currently, we are in the R&D stage and do not have any partnerships with Korean companies at this time. But we will achieve our global strategic goals step by step and believe that at the time, enterprises from Korea will also become our partners.