HT Aero, a Guangzhou-based startup backed by Chinese tech unicorn, Xpeng, has secured $500 million to build flying cars, with a potential eye on a 2024 commercial launch date.
The round of funding is the single-largest in Asia’s relatively new low-flying vehicle sector to date, according to Business Wire. The Series A funding was led by Xpeng and several high-profile foreign investors, including Sequoia, Eastern Bell Capital, IDG Capital and 5Y Capital.
In a recent press release, company founder Zhao Deli said that the sum of half a billion dollars would be dedicated to furthering the futuristic project’s research and development. Zhao said HT Aero would release a model capable of operating as a traditional motor vehicle and a “low-altitude” flying vehicle.
In July, HT Aero released its X2 concept to the world. The X2 is the firm’s second prototype vehicle and first eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) able to carry a passenger.
A YouTube video released shortly after the X2’s unveiling showcased the vehicle’s capabilities and highlighted some of the more important vehicle metrics. According to the concept video, the X2 weighs in at 560 kilograms empty and has a “take-off” weight of 760 kilograms.
The electric-powered craft, fitted with four independent battery packs, can reach a top speed of 130 kilometres per hour for 35 minutes before recharging is required.
Safety features include a 360-degree, real-time camera inside the cockpit and a parachute located in the vehicle’s rear third. Notably, missing from the X2’s design was the inclusion of wheels. The X2 instead featured fixed rails similar to a helicopter.
While the cruising altitude for the X2 was not mentioned, the Kiwigogo, another HT Aero prototype has a listed cruising altitude of between 5 and 25 metres.
Flying cars or eVTOL vehicles have garnered significant attention from a plethora of both startups and big tech firms in the last half-decade – they’re viewed as a novel transportation method that could alleviate burdened road networks.
German firm, Lillium, raised $860 million in a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deal on the NASDAQ in March. Volocopter, another German startup and Geely partner, is also aiming to get its eVTOL ambitions off the ground, particularly in China, where the young firm is seeking to establish a flying taxi service.