China's flying supercar company unveils surprising new vehicles
China's AeroHT is making rapid progress with its eVTOL flying cars, and it's now shown two fascinating new concepts – a six-wheel-drive hybrid-electric "aircraft carrier" van, and a new version of the flying supercar, with a fully concealed airframe.
When relatively young electric car manufacturer Xpeng announced it was throwing more than half a billion US dollars at a new flying car division back in 2021, we were puzzled and bemused. But AeroHT wiped the grin off our faces 12 months later when it actually started flight testing a two-ton prototype of the X3 flying car that basically looked like a sporty hatchback with a giant drone on top.
So while a lot of what you're about to read does indeed sound ridiculous and impractical, we can't rule it out. AeroHT seems fully committed to bringing some very weird ideas to the market, and on top of that, Chinese aviation authorities have also recently proven they're willing to roll out the red carpet for innovative ideas, as Europe and the USA continue to roll out the red tape.
The first concept AeroHT unveiled at last week's Xpeng Tech Day 2023 was what the company dubbed a "Land Aircraft Carrier." While not a flying car per se, this brutally futuristic, six-wheel-drive, gray panel van is basically a ground deployment system for a two-seat eVTOL multicopter, which travels in the back.
The deployment system is fun; the van opens its rear doors and squats down on its suspension, and a boxy little aircraft is automatically deposited, folding out its landing gear. Then, after the van nicks off, six little arms fold out from the top of the aircraft's cabin, each with a large carbon fiber propeller and an electric motor, and ... well, off it flies, as you can see in the concept render video below. It even has a couple of extra horizontal cruise props.
AeroHT says the van will run off a range-extended hybrid power system, enabling it to "provide multiple recharges for the air vehicle," and it'll carry four to five people, so you'll be able to drive off and meet the air crew wherever they land. The company is pitching this for emergency services use – but also as a privately owned toy.
The second concept was an updated look at how the flying supercar is going to work. Where the original concept only used two very large propellers on fold-out arms, the company is now moving to a more practical four-arm system with eight coaxially-mounted propellers for extra control and redundancy.
But this long, low, sporty-looking car will still store its flight gear internally, where the critical flight gear won't get damaged by highway debris. A new video, embedded below, shows the vehicle's elongated roof lifting up to allow the airframe arms to fold out – while in the cabin, the steering wheel retracts out of the way so the driver can take the joystick and become the pilot.
Mind you, it wasn't just a render video; AeroHT also unveiled a physical concept vehicle, pictured at the top of our story, with all the flight gear folded out. It's not immediately clear how functional this machine is, whether it has any of the fold-away tech working or whether it's ever intended to be a flying prototype as opposed to a show car.
But it sure looks snazzy, and we wouldn't be surprised to see it – or something looking very much like it – airborne within the coming months. Physics throws up no deal-breaking impediments to such a flying supercar getting off the ground, but as to whether AeroHT will be able to get any kind of practical flight range out of this thing, well, we seriously doubt it.
eVTOL aircraft are typically built from the lightest possible materials, and specifically for the single purpose of flight – and they still struggle to carry enough battery to fly very far with a person or two on board. AeroHT's flying supercar has to carry all the weight of an eVTOL aircraft, plus the folding system, plus the wheels, suspension, motors, battery and crash-testable chassis of a street-approved car.
So sure, there's no reason it can't fly – but we'd be very impressed if it could cover 20 km (44 miles) in the air running current battery technology. It'll be fascinating to see.
The final thing AeroHT chose to share was the most impressive – at least, to those of us who have been following the eVTOL space for a while: a video of its innovative low-altitude ballistic parachute system bringing an aircraft down from just 50 m (164 ft) off the ground.
AeroHT remains one of the weirdest and most interesting companies in the emerging eVTOL landscape. We look forward to seeing this team's next progress report.