"What we see as a flying car is not a flying machine, it should be a smart electric car in the city and a low-altitude flying vehicle in the suburbs."
(Image credit: XPeng)
HT Aero, a technology unit majority-owned by XPeng Motors and CEO He Xiaopeng, is one of the most aggressive players in China's urban air mobility (UAM) market. He expressed his views on the future of the market in a recent post.
"What we see as a flying car is not a flying machine, it should be a smart electric car in the city and a low-altitude flying vehicle in the suburbs," He said in a Weibo post on Saturday.
He made the comment while sharing a Caixin article about the Civil Aviation Administration of China's (CAAC) shift in attitude toward flying cars.
The Caixin article mentioned that the CAAC has changed its follower posture and is taking the lead in accepting applications for the airworthiness of unmanned passenger air vehicles, hoping to replicate the story of the rise of electric vehicles in the flying car sector.
He said that for the past eight years, the HT Aero team's main focus has been on flying vehicles. But now and for years to come, the team is shifting its focus to the integration of flying vehicles and cars.
"Flying cars will be an extension of cars in the future, and for the first few years they will mainly fly at ultra-low altitudes of 7-10 meters," He said.
HT Aero unveiled its fourth-generation intelligent electric manned vehicle, the X1, at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2021, which is the same size as a regular car and can take off and land vertically in a parking space.
On July 16 of last year, He announced the release of the fifth-generation flying vehicle X2 via Weibo, saying, "This marks another step closer to a more widely available and safe flying car."
Notably, these efforts seem to be what He called the HT Aero team's focus on flying vehicles, rather than integration with cars.
At its annual Tech Day event last October 24, XPeng unveiled HT Aero's sixth-generation flying car, marking a realignment of its exploration in the field.
It is a vehicle that can both drive on land like a normal car and fly in the air.
He said at the time that the company aims to have the flying car in mass production by 2024, with a price tag expected to be under RMB 1 million ($157,000).
"We never make a concept car or a car just for show, all the exploration is to make it mass-produced and change our lives in smart mobility," He said.
He said the latest generation of the vehicle is based on HT Aero's more than 15,000 safe test flights over the past eight years, in-house developed technology and multiple layers of safety redundancy.