In 2022, how close are we to the dream of flying cars?
Although ancient people have dreamed of cars flying in the clouds for thousands of years, engineers still have not come up with a perfect solution to make cars fly.Fortunately, there are already a variety of flying cabins to keep the world dreaming of the future of amphibious transport on land and in the air.Looking back on 2021, China’s auto industry has received at least two unexpected blessings: First, the new Transition built by Terrafugia of the United States, which was acquired by Geely, was awarded the light sport aircraft Charter certificate by the FAA and the US Federal Aviation Administration in January.In mid-November, Xiaopeng Automobile announced that the Passenger X2, which was first launched by Xiaopeng Hutian in September, would be tested in Europe in 2022.But neither is strictly the Flying Car that the automotive press has been dreaming of for years.Terrafugia Transition is officially defined as Roadable Aircraft, which means an Aircraft capable of driving and landing on the road.The Voyager X2 is a typical eVTOL electric vTOL vehicle.That’s just how skinny it is.It was not so obvious that such a slaughter was written in the Book Of History of Natural Things published during the Western Jin Dynasty.For flying cars, from the wind.””But in reality, whether it was Glenn Curtiss’s 1917 Autoplane, Waldo Waterman’s 1937 Arrowbile, or Molt Taylor’s 1949 Aerocar,Up to the latest Terrafugia Transition, actually all belong to Roadable Aircraft.The difference is between putting wings on a car and four wheels and folding wings on a small plane.The reason is simple:After all, cars and airplanes are two different types of transportation tools, and there is an inimitable gap between control requirements and safety standards. In the era of relatively primitive research and development technology and production process, the two can only be rudely bonded together and focus on meeting the needs of flight.As a result, the road performance of these Roadable Aircraft is not comparable to that of conventional cars.The current rush of capital and venture capital firms to eVTOL can be traced back to Uber Elevate’s White Paper on On-demand Aviation in 2016 and the Uber Elevate Summit a year later.EVTOL solutions were featured at the summit, as Uber’s white paper stated that it wanted to create a “sky taxi” that was quieter and cheaper than the current short-to-medium range urban commuter helicopters.In addition, NASA introduced the UAM urban air Traffic concept in 2018 and included it in the AAM Advanced Transportation Systems National Strategic Program. Thus, there is no reason for capital not to be enthusiastic about it, driving the hype of eVTOL for UAM to become a new venture capital firm — only in the first five months of 2021.The world’s top five UAM aircraft manufacturers have raised about $5 billion in funding.According to Morgan Stanley’s new 2019 forecast, the POTENTIAL value of the UAM market will reach $1.5 to $2.9 trillion by 2040.At the same time, just like the “revolution” set off by new forces of Car making in the automobile industry, the capital and venture capital companies that entered the UAM blue Ocean market also packaged eVTOL equipped with intelligent driving system as a Flying Car that is truly suitable for low-carbon and efficient cities in the future, and intended to replace the traditional Flying Car.Before that, however, eVTOL will have to beat Roadable Aircraft to commercialization. After all, Roadable Aircraft, similar to small Aircraft, is also suitable for intercity air traffic systems, especially in the large and sparsely populated United States, which will no doubt become one of eVTOL’s strong competitors in the UAM market.The example of Terrafugia Transition shows that Roadable Aircraft can apply for airworthiness certificate like traditional Aircraft and mainly be used as light Aircraft, thus achieving commercialization earlier.EVTOL, by contrast, is an unprecedented intruder in the city’s low – and medium-altitude space, requiring not only to update airworthiness certification laws but also to write the city’s air traffic regulations for its working environment.And because it relies on a massive lift system to take off and land vertically, eVTOL, like helicopters, has a dedicated landing pad.That means the city will have to build an extra parking pad and maintenance system for eVTOL, which also has range anxiety and may not be able to share the pad with a helicopter.And that’s not to mention the hidden operational, regulatory hurdles that eVTOL will face as a new entity.Clearly, eVTOL is far more difficult to commercialize than Roadable Aircraft.By the way, since China’s airspace is much more tightly controlled than in the U.S. and Europe, any “flying car” commercializing in China will face tougher regulatory and other problems that companies can’t solve on their own.Interestingly, while eVTOL’s manufacturers are still talking about commercialization, the Pal-V Liberty and the AeroMobil AM 4, two orthodox Flying cars that switch between Car and aircraft modes, are ready for commercialization.Pal-v Liberty has passed road safety tests in the European Union and will be licensed in Europe. By 2022, EASA’s European Aviation Safety Authority will have certified it as airworthy, allowing licensed owners to fly their aircraft.The AeroMobil AM 4 will be available in 2023.And followed by commercialization, perhaps is still in the conceptual stage of xiaopeng Huitian sixth generation of flying cars.And until Roadable Aircraft, eVTOL and Flying Car are commercialized, the industry won’t be able to tell which Flying cars will be a mobility force in the next five to 10 years.Unsurprisingly, traditional automakers have not shown great enthusiasm for UAM.Either, as Geely has done, it buys ready-made start-ups outright or makes joint ventures with them.Established manufacturers like GM and Audi, on the other hand, produce concept products for CES and other shows, most of which never see the light of day.Of course, there are cross-industry conglomerates such as Hyundai who really come up with two tilt-rotor aircraft as a technological reserve.There are new forces of Car manufacturing such as Xiaopeng, and they have made quite decent products, especially the models made by Dutch PAL-V and Slovak AeroMobil, which are actually very close to the ideal Flying Car.Several major players in the global aviation industry actually have a presence in the eVTOL field, but in different ways.In the case of Boeing and Airbus, Boeing sets up a venture capital arm called NeXt for new transportation markets, which then buys eVTOL or collaborates with other companies to develop aircraft for UAM scenarios.At present, PAV, an autonomous passenger aircraft developed by the department, has completed its first test flight.For the UAM market, Airbus currently has two proposals.One is the single-seat, fully automated eVTOL, which completed its first test flight in 2019, and the other is the four-seat, multi-rotor eVTOL, which is still under design and development.The single-seat, four-seat CityAirbus NextGen, called Vahana, is also flying smaller models and is expected to hit the market in 2023.As THE eVTOL project becomes a new investment outlet, there will naturally be a flood of start-ups.In the past year, companies such as Joby Aviation and Lilium GmbH have either successfully raised funds through mergers with SPAC special purpose companies, or closed after financing.Throughout the eVTOL models released by mainstream venture capital enterprises, automatic driving and intelligent interconnection are the selling points. The key lift systems are multi-rotor, tilt-rotor, distributed bypass fan and other forms, which can cover a wide range of application scenarios such as logistics, rescue, sharing and high-end private.Just behind the excitement, the news from eVTOL circle was blunt, in the sky test flight prototype, few.Article I Lilxin picture I network