Driving straight as the crow flies

Flying cars are no longer the stuff of science-fiction or children’s cartoons

Photo by heyxpeng.com

2 min read

Have you ever been stuck in traffic, maybe on a freeway with your exit in sight, with nothing moving? Did you find yourself daydreaming that instead of your compact import you were driving that classic flying car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Or one of those fancy flyers used by the Jetsons? Then you could simply lift off and fly over the gridlock.

Well, dream no more.

On Monday October 10, XPeng Inc, a Chinese company headquartered in Guangzhou and engaged in the design, development, production and sales of electric vehicles, tested its flying car prototype in Dubai.

The unmanned flight lasted 90 seconds. Although this might seem trivial, the first flight by the Wright Brothers lasted 12 seconds, and their best attempt that day was 59 seconds. And look at aviation technology today.

The X2 is a two-seater electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (like a helicopter) with eight propellers—two at each corner of the vehicle, designed to provide maneuverability. At first sight, one might think that it is a giant bug, as one might associate with very low budget horror movies. In fact, it is a large drone designed for civilian use.

XPeng’s CEO shared that the flying car weighs 360kg (794 lbs) and can handle a maximum takeoff weight of 560kg (1,235 lbs). According to XPeng, the production version would be designed to fly at an altitude of about 100m (300ft) in cities.

Because it is battery powered, the X2 can manage a maximum 35 minutes of flight time and can reach a maximum speed of 130 km/h (80 mph). It also produces no carbon emissions.

XPeng was very mindful of safety in design. The X2 has eight independent battery groups, offering a redundant power supply should any batteries malfunction.

Not only, but the X2 comes complete with an ejection parachute. It sounds a lot like the ejector seat in 007’s car in the movie Goldfinger. But this is no movie, and this is no stunt.

Brian Gu, vice chairman and president of XPeng, said that “X2’s public display in Dubai represents a significant milestone for XPeng Aeroht and the international achievement of flying cars.”

Dubai International Chamber of Commerce’s Hassan Al Hashemi declared: “The flying car is the epitome of ambition, innovation and future-oriented vision that has always inspired Dubai and its leadership. Today, we witnessed a historic moment that will define the next 50 years.”

Perhaps Hashemi is being a bit hyperbolic, but XPeng plans to make the X2 available for purchase in 2025. Of course, all sorts of regulatory hurdles have to be overcome before we see George, Jane, Judy, Elroy and their dog Astro really commuting through the sky.

For now, it’s back to the gridlock. This time traffic is really moving—crawling really. I need to start saving so that I can get my hands on an X2. According to current estimates, the flying car should sell for a mere US $156,600.

With material from IOT World Today, Elektrek and Reuters

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