A flying car is a three-dimensional vehicle. Broadly speaking, it is a low-altitude intelligent autonomous transportation tool carrying cargo or people, namely electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL). It features electric vertical take-off and landing, intelligent autonomous driving, amphibious transport and so on.
Multi-rotor configuration is the current mainstream
The technical configurations of flying cars mainly include four types: fixed wings, multi-rotors, composite wings and tilting wings. Among them, the most traditional fixed wings are rarely used due to the inability to take off and land vertically and hover. On the market, the most used multi-rotors take off and land vertically, hover precisely, are simple to operate with little technical difficulty, and land quickly. But, they are only suitable for short-distance transportation because of a short range.
In the future, with the improvement of the route network and the growth of long-distance transportation demand, composite wings and tilting wings with longer range and faster cruising speed will gradually become the mainstream.
Around 2025, flying cars will spring up
As per the planning announced by vendors, the commercialization of flying cars will happen around 2025. By then, the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics and the Expo 2025 Osaka will be in the global spotlight. Therefore, both Paris and Osaka have deployed flying cars.
The city of Paris hopes to create two dedicated flight paths to ferry passengers for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics. One route will carry passengers via Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget airports, while the second will travel between two suburbs southwest of the French capital.
At present, Volocopter and Airbus have commercial plans for the Paris Olympics. Volocopter successfully flew its electric air taxi ‘helicopter’, the VoloCity, from Le Bourget airport in 2021. Also in 2021, Airbus revealed CityAirbus NextGen, an all-electric, four-seat eVTOL multicopter concept featuring a wing, for the general public during the 2024 Olympic Games.
Osaka, Japan has made a very detailed roadmap for the commercialization of flying cars: regular flights will be opened in 2025, routes will be added in 2030, and aircrafts will be larger and diversified in 2035. SkyDrive and Joby Aviation have planned to provide commercial services during the Expo 2025 Osaka (in February 2022, ANA HOLDINGS, INC. and Joby Aviation announced they were forming a partnership that will see Japan’s largest airline join with Joby to bring aerial ridesharing services to cities and communities across Japan. Toyota Motor Corporation also joined the partnership).
How do flying cars become possible? The platform operation mode is the prerequisite
Usually, a flying car costs more than USD300,000 (for instance, PAL-V Liberty sells the standard model, known as the Liberty Sport, for USD399,000). As the automation technology is not yet perfect, most eVTOLs require operators with pilot certificates or pilots. Therefore, the platform operation mode is the main business model in the initial stage.
For example, Joby Aviation plans to launch an App-based air ride-sharing service in 2024. Volocopter also plans a complete air carpooling service process, allowing customers to learn about carpooling services through Volocopter website, app, and VoloPort kiosk before placing orders, enjoying services and then evaluating them. In addition, EHang’s carpooling service process includes “finding a suitable route in the APP – selecting a destination – selecting an EHang AAV and making a reservation”.