Aircraft

Suzuki joins SkyDrive's push to build an eVTOL flying car by 2025

Suzuki joins SkyDrive's push t...
Suzuki has partnered with SkyDrive to build a 2-seat eVTOL flying car that's expected to commence air taxi services in 2025
Suzuki has partnered with SkyDrive to build a 2-seat eVTOL flying car that's expected to commence air taxi services in 2025
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Suzuki has partnered with SkyDrive to build a 2-seat eVTOL flying car that's expected to commence air taxi services in 2025
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Suzuki has partnered with SkyDrive to build a 2-seat eVTOL flying car that's expected to commence air taxi services in 2025
An odd airframe design hangs the propulsion pods off curled-over arms leading off the top of the cockpit
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An odd airframe design hangs the propulsion pods off curled-over arms leading off the top of the cockpit
Viewed from beneath, you can vaguely make out the three wheels that'll be responsible for road drive
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Viewed from beneath, you can vaguely make out the three wheels that'll be responsible for road drive
As a basic multicopter, this machine will be restricted to Volocopter-style range figures between 20-30 km per charge
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As a basic multicopter, this machine will be restricted to Volocopter-style range figures between 20-30 km per charge
This machine would kick up some serious dust flying that low in the desert
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This machine would kick up some serious dust flying that low in the desert
The wheelbase looks a bit far back to stay balanced, especially while braking and cornering at road speeds up to 60 km/h
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The wheelbase looks a bit far back to stay balanced, especially while braking and cornering at road speeds up to 60 km/h
The SD-XX: a tandem two-seat coaxial multicopter design
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The SD-XX: a tandem two-seat coaxial multicopter design
Very few other eVTOL designs are designed with land-based driving capabilities
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Very few other eVTOL designs are designed with land-based driving capabilities
Cartivator/SkyDrive's single-seat prototype has been flown
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Cartivator/SkyDrive's single-seat prototype has been flown
View gallery - 9 images

Japanese eVTOL company SkyDrive has announced it's going into partnership with Suzuki, as it works toward the development and full-scale production of a "compact, two-seating electric-powered flying car," which it hopes to debut at the Osaka World Expo in 2025.

SkyDrive would appear to be Japan's leading eVTOL project. Its parent company, charmingly named Cartivator, was founded on the back of a small investment by Toyota. Its CTO, Nobuo Kishi, joined the company after holding a "top post" at Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, and it partnered with electronics giant NEC on a demonstration aircraft back in 2019.

Now, Suzuki is coming on board, "to collaborate in areas of business and technology that include technology R&D, planning of manufacturing and mass-production systems, development of overseas markets with an initial focus on India, and promotion of efforts to attain carbon neutrality."

Despite sticking mainly in the automotive, motorcycle, ATV, marine and engine businesses, Suzuki is perhaps a bigger company than it might seem, shipping nearly three million units and pulling down almost US$29 billion in revenue in 2020. In car manufacturing alone, it ranked as the 11th biggest automaker in 2017. It has been slow, however, in moving to electric power. Indeed, Suzuki's first all-electric consumer car isn't expected until 2025.

Cartivator/SkyDrive's single-seat prototype has been flown
Cartivator/SkyDrive's single-seat prototype has been flown

While SkyDrive has flown small single-seat multicopter concepts, it's still unclear exactly what kind of aircraft it's working on with Suzuki. Most of the images we've used here are of SkyDrive's SD-XX concept model, a tandem two-seat design that would appear to fit this project's description.

This is an 8-prop coaxial multicopter airframe, with a glass-covered cabin. It's designed to lift a maximum takeoff weight of 500 kg (1,100 lb) to a max altitude of 500 m (1,640 ft), flying at a max speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) for somewhere between 20-30 minutes.

Unusually, it'll actually fit the "flying car" category, since it offers a drive mode as well. On the ground, it rests on three wheels – two side by side beneath the cabin, and a third extending back behind the cabin. SkyDrive says it's planning a max driving speed of 60 km/h (37 mph), with a range between 20-30 km (12-18 miles).

Very few other eVTOL designs are designed with land-based driving capabilities
Very few other eVTOL designs are designed with land-based driving capabilities

If we were to criticize the design, which is clearly far from final, we'd raise the following points. The large, curved arms that come off the top of the airframe to support the vertical propulsion pods look cool, but they look like a bit of a waste of weight, and while slightly wing-like in appearance, they look like they'd contribute very little lift.

Center of gravity also looks like an issue; with the weight of a pilot in the front, it looks like it'll be nose-heavy, with its front wheels just forward of the middle of the vehicle. Steering and braking could easily pitch this thing forward from the looks of it.

And while SkyDrive's partners certainly have a lot of expertise in certifying road-registerable cars, the decision to make a dual-mode vehicle will add enormous cost, weight and overhead on top of the already daunting task of getting the airframe itself type certified for any kind of commercial operation. A flying car might make more sense as a consumer product than an air taxi, so SkyDrive could potentially look into selling them direct to pilots under less onerous "buy 'n' fly" regulations.

Viewed from beneath, you can vaguely make out the three wheels that'll be responsible for road drive
Viewed from beneath, you can vaguely make out the three wheels that'll be responsible for road drive

But air taxi operations are definitely a key goal, according to the press release. "SkyDrive aims to begin air taxi service during the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka, Japan, as well as to initiate service in other regions of Japan." High-profile public taxi flights beginning three years from next month? Eep. Best get cracking on a final design, prototypes, flight testing, certification, production and all the rest of it, team!

Source: SkyDrive

View gallery - 9 images
14 comments
14 comments
windykites
Flight duration 20-30 minutes. A bit worrying after say, 25 minutes. If you have to land somewhere, how can you re-charge?
Aermaco
They wisely protect living things from their slice & dicers and when fuel cells are more developed for eVTOL following Aalak'i Skai's lead and the many others working on it, the nice looking aircraft like this will flourish.
Steven Clarkson
The design concerns you pointed out is very valid. Personally i love the idea of a company such as Suzuki making an EVTOL. However they would need to redesign their concept.
Steven Clarkson
@windykites
Easy, just plan your flight.
mattlass
Year after year I see the same frustrating news- a flying vehicle that uses the same antiquated propulsion system that the Wright brothers used- pushing air with a prop. How about using the freedom of information act to get our government to release its development of anti-gravity tech. We're entitled to it!
noteugene
Apx 25 mile range? And they think that's going to sell?
Rustgecko
All these electric flying vehicles are great until the first one falls on a school yard at break time and they get banned.
FB36
Conditions for a proper flying car (IMHO):
1: Fully electric drive (+ biodiesel/biofuel (NOT H2!) gas turbine generator)!
2: Hexacopter/octocopter! (It needs to be able to fly/land OK w/ 1 propeller failed!)
3: Needs to be able to fit into 1 (or 2) car parking spaces!
4: Needs to be able to carry 3 people (or 2 people + baggage)!
5: Its propellers need to be able to do auto-rotation in case of total power failure (for soft landing)!
6: It needs to self-correct (w/o power) to always fall upright!
7: It needs internal (+ external) airbags!
Steven Clarkson
@FB36
1. Practical evidence proved 154.6 miles of range for the leadung Evtol, no generator needed, should one be used for longer range until batteries advance,
H2 is a MUST Should a generator be used biofuel is way too expensive to generate.
2. Can do that even with more than one motor failure. So that condition is exceeded.
3. This is not a requirement for viable commercial operation though it would be great to see a future CityHawk or variant fill that niche.
4. Again not a requirement for succesful commercialization but Not a problem for Joby or Ehang.
5.Not needed this is new generation technology it has got super reliable Electric motors and redundency to make sure the craft will land safely in case of motor failures. Many a times unfortunately auto rotation on helicopters has proven not to save crafts/pilots.
6.Multicopters will never be without power because of redundency so not required.
7.Helicopters don't have it, why should multicopters when they can actually land safely with motor failures compared to dodgy auto rotation on helicopters.

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HoppyHopkins
Having enough power for electric VTOL vehicles is easy, having a high enough power density to run it for decent endurance, now that is hard
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