Chinese automotive player, Zhejiang Geely, recently announced it has successfully tested its electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL).
Developed by Geely subsidiary, Aerofugia, the AE200 prototype eVTOL completed its maiden flight in early February, according to online publication Interesting Engineering.
Aerofugia became the country’s first licensed eVTOL operator in 2022 and plans to make the futuristic vehicle available to the public as soon as 2025.
The AE200 is based on the Terrafugia Transition, a $279 000 US-designed flying car with a reported range of 800 kilometres.
The Terrafugia brand was purchased by the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2017 and relocated to Chengdu in 2021.
In 2019, the motoring giant also invested €55 million into German eVTOL startup, Volocopter, before merging the Terrafugia brand with Chinese drone manufacturer AOSSCI.
The family car-sized eVTOL seats five, including the pilot, making it the largest prototype of its kind ever produced.
It achieves lift and thrust via propellers mounted at each end of four propulsion pods fixed atop a roof-mounted wing.
The Aerofugia’s successful debut test is evidence Geely has enough expertise and resources to realise its eVTOL ambitions in time, Wang Ke, a senior staffer at the car industry consultancy, Analasys, told the South China Morning Post.
However, Wang did add that the industry is in its infancy and the commercialisation of flying cars is likely still a few years ahead.
All the technical and safety aspects of the young eVTOL industry have yet to be ironed out, suggesting it may take some time for the public to embrace the eVTOLs in the same way they did electric vehicles, said Wang.
The eVTOL firm is currently working on another vehicle, the TF-2, which it intends to make available to the public near 2026.
Also a five-seater, the TF-2 has a slightly more compact frame complete with eight top-mounted propellers.
Unlike the AE200, the TF-2 has a ninth pusher propeller mounted on the rear end, presumably for cruising.
Aerofugia told the media it intends to conduct several more tests in order to acquire as much flight data as possible before pursuing certification to produce and sell any eVTOLs.
A representative from Aerofugia told SCMP that the company would continue to develop the AE200 and other eVTOLs for several years before it makes anything available.