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China About to Build the World's First Proper Flying Car Factory

Xpeng Land Aircraft Carrier + VTOL 10 photos
Photo: Xpeng
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The automotive industry came into this world more than a century ago, technically at the time when Ford came up with the idea of creating assembly lines for automobiles, thus allowing mass production at affordable prices. And for the better part of those decades both the industry and the vehicles it produced largely remained the same.
But we are living through a time of change, and by that I don't mean the switch from internal combustion engines to electric drives. As our world is getting increasingly crowded, humanity has started looking for alternative means of transport – flying vehicles that can handle urban commuting needs.

There are two main vehicle families currently being researched. The first is that of the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. These things can significantly cut travel times by flying over congested areas, taking people to where they need to be in a heartbeat. VTOLs are generally envisioned as mass transportation tools that will create the air taxi sector, and they'll only travel from point to point through the air.

But the other new vehicle family, that of flying cars, is meant to serve the needs of individuals, and also combine a car's road-going abilities with the flying skills of an aircraft.

Flying cars have been dreamed of for ages now, but for one reason or another, no one really managed to make them a reality. People are still trying, and few seem to be as far along as the Chinese from Xpeng Aeroht.

The company was set up in 2013, and in the time that has passed since, it was responsible for the creation of no less than five generations of flying cars. Granted, none of them reached civilian hands yet, but that's about to change.

Xpeng Aeroht ground and air vehicles combo
Photo: Xpeng Aeroht
Xpeng's main push these days is centered on three vehicles caled the X1, X2, and T1, with a fourth one, the "first modular flying car to be mass-produced for individuals," having been announced at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.

The project is called X3-F, and it technically plans to pair a five-passenger 6x6 van bred for off-road activities with a VTOL powerful enough to carry people from place to place.

The way the idea works is pretty simple: the van can drive on its own wheels to where it needs to be, relying on stuff like all-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering, and an electric powertrain to get there.

In its back the van carries the VTOL, which can be deployed to allow people to enjoy amazing scenery or simply take joyrides through the air. The aircraft is described as the country's first VTOL designed for personal use.

Granted, such a way of doing things doesn't really equate to a flying car: after all, we're talking about a conventional wheeled vehicle that's equipped with a VTOL tender for fun and games. But this does seem to be just the starting point for something greater, a proper flying car that can handle both roads and the sky with a single hardware package.

When plans for the X3-F were announced there was also talk of start of mass production scheduled to kick off in the fourth quarter of next year.

Xpeng Aeroht ground and air vehicles combo
Photo: Xpeng Aeroht
Given how I've seen promises of flying cars come and go before, I wasn't particularly thrilled about the Chinese being the first to mass-produce a flying car. But I am beginning to change my mind after reading this latest announcement from Xpeng.

Last week the company attended something called the Low-Altitude Economy High-Quality Development Conference held in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. There, the company managed to secure support from local authorities for the construction of the "world's first large-scale flying car factory."

By support Xpeng means to government will supply the company with land, financing, and application scenarios. In return, it promises to create a center for flying car research and development, mass manufacturing capabilities, and also sales.

As per the details available at the moment, the Xpeng center will be used to come up and test new technologies, while the "modern assembly lines" will roll to release vehicles en masse.

We're told the first product to do that will be the Land Aircraft Carrier, which is the term the Chinese use to describe the modular flying car I mentioned above, aka the van + the VTOL. So confident is the company in its plans that it even announced it will start pre-selling the combo as soon as this November (pricing is unknown at the time of writing).

I'm curious to see how this flying car factory project pans out. Although it's clear the Chinese really want to make these things, you do have to keep in mind that their success depends on how fast the world can invent new rules and regulations to govern the operation of VTOLs and flying cars.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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