In 2030, in the noisy city center, flying cars opened their wings and rose from the ground. People fly into the air in flying cars, watch videos and drink coffee comfortably in the cars. The flying car reached a speed of 200 kilometers per hour, easily avoiding ground traffic jams, and reached the destination in less than 15 minutes. After folding the wings, it parked in a normal parking space.

This is not just a scene in a science fiction movie.

In 1917, G. Curtis, known as the “father of flying cars,” showed the world a flying car called Autoplane for the first time. For hundreds of years, mankind’s exploration of flying cars has never stopped. Driven by technological innovation, this dream may become a reality with the efforts of a new generation of entrepreneurs.

In 2021, the “flying car” concept once again detonated the venture capital circle. A group of aircraft-making teams have been favored by capital. They use the logic of building airplanes and playing aircraft to make flying cars.

At the beginning of September, Time Technology completed two rounds of financing within one month, totaling tens of millions of dollars. In the same month, Fengfei Aviation Technology completed a US$100 million Series A financing. Xiaopeng Huitian soon reported financing news to break the record, and completed a series A financing of more than 500 million US dollars, with a pre-investment valuation of 1 billion US dollars. Xiaopeng’s flying car will be mass-produced in 2024.

Domestic eVTOL related financing information


Data source: Rui Beast analysis

Hyundai Motor also announced the establishment of Supernal, LLC, a flying car company, to develop a series of electric aircraft, and plans to launch its first commercial flight in 2028.

Morgan Stanley research report predicts that the flying car industry will form a market size of 300 billion US dollars in 2030. In 2040, the size of the industry may reach 1.5 trillion US dollars.

However, in the face of this future trillion-level market, industry experts are cautious.

Automotive industry analyst Ling Ran told Chuangyebang that there is a bubble in any technology, and this bubble is often promoted, and many things have not experienced the test of reality and the test of the market. In this case, people should treat this matter more rationally, instead of blindly seeing Xiaopeng Huitian raising US$500 million and chasing products that are still in the fantasy stage. The ideals and technologies of the brand should be separate. Look.

Investors and entrepreneurs in the frontline don’t think so. Investors believe that this time is not a false fire, and has a very clear investment logic.

“We are very optimistic about the flying car track. The important thing is that very high-quality players can be selected on this track.” said Liu Yuheng, a partner of Pan Lin Capital.

He Xiaopeng’s attitude is firmer: “If we build another car that has not changed drastically, but only pursues its design, positioning, and price differences, then why do we start a business? Start a business to do different things.”

Why did flying cars catch on again?

The flying car industry did not catch fire this year, it caught fire once four or five years ago.

In 2016, Uber announced the flying car plan for the first time in a white paper released by Uber, planning to deploy air taxi services in cities, which caused widespread heated discussion in the industry.

To be precise, Uber’s flying car should be an eVTOL aircraft, which can theoretically help passengers cross over congested traffic and accelerate traffic between suburbs and cities.


Source: Uber official website

The research and development foundation of flying cars relies on the three-electric system, parts and intelligent systems of electric vehicles. However, in the global electric vehicle market in 2016, in addition to the sudden emergence of Tesla, traditional giants such as Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have just launched concept models. New forces such as Weilai, Ideal, and Xiaopeng have only been established for a year or two and have not yet begun to deliver. .

At that time, the industry believed that with the development of electric vehicles in the embryonic stage, land and air amphibians were no different from idiotic dreams. In the following few years, due to technical limitations, the eVTOL field was tepid, and there was little capital interest.

Nowadays, what is the investment logic of capital’s enthusiasm for flying cars again? Has the technical bottleneck been broken?

In the view of Lanchi Ventures, the investor of Time Technology, the future mobility industry is “Future Mobility”. Its industry chain is very long, covering sea, land and air, and will take different forms according to the capacity and mileage.

From the perspective of the Mobility (mobile travel) chain, the flying car defined by Lanchi Ventures is eVTOL-an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The observation of this track is divided into two dimensions: the demand side and the supply side.

On the demand side, as the degree of urbanization continues to increase, people’s living space today is actually three-dimensional, but most of the moving scenes (including passenger cars, commercial vehicles, trains and ships, etc.) still occur on the ground, especially The transportation within the city operates. Such a form has brought about a problem, that is, the road congestion that occurs in the first, second and even lower-tier cities.

At the same time, people have higher and higher requirements for travel frequency and efficiency, but lower and lower requirements for vehicle cost. Especially for people with high time value, the two-dimensional mobile scene cannot meet their efficient travel needs.

On the supply side, in recent years, with the rapid development of the electric vehicle industry chain, flying cars have gradually approached reality from movies. For example, a series of basic technological advancements such as battery energy density, autonomous driving technology, and on-board equipment will promote the development of the application of these technologies in the flying car industry.


Source: Fengfei Aviation Science and Technology Official Account

In the past few years, the development of the electric vehicle industry has built a very mature and efficient electric-related supply chain centered on the “three-electric system”. In particular, China has been at the forefront of the world in this regard.

In the three-electric system, a more advanced motor system means quieter; a higher energy density power battery means a greater thrust-to-weight ratio; the development of vehicle controllers can make the flight process safer. These three core indicators all directly point to the pain points of the previous traditional helicopter navigation process.

In addition, the rapid development of smart phones allows sensors and computing power to be realized in a very small space at a very low cost. The development of the drone industry has greatly improved the talent ecosystem related to aircraft in China.

“The superposition of the above three reasons has allowed flying cars to explode at this point in time today, providing a necessary basic condition.” Lanchi Ventures eVTOL investment team analyzed.

Liu Yuheng, an investor in Oscar Technology, believes that the flying car itself is a product. From the conceptual stage to the demo, to the end, it can be used in small batches. The ecosystem is becoming more and more mature, allowing more startups to emerge. Capital began to invest in these companies.

“Geely’s entry of a giant in the auto industry is a strong signal.” In 2017, Geely acquired the American Taili Speed, and together with Mercedes-Benz invested in Volocopter in Germany. In 2020, it merged with Aoshi Technology to form Wofei in China. Sky. In September of this year, Volocopter and Volocopter established a joint venture company Volocopter in China. A series of actions can see that the commercialization of low-altitude travel is accelerating.

“On this track, there will be the possibility of eVTOL products landing in the next three to five years.” Liu Yuheng said.

Who is the number one player

There are four types of players in the flying car industry, including traditional aviation manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing; car companies such as Geely, Toyota and Xiaopeng; Internet giants such as Tencent and Google (mainly investment); Airlines and other startup companies.

At present, the mainstream technical route of flying cars has changed from the early years to the eVTOL technical route that can hover and has vertical take-off and landing features by adding fixed wings to the car.

Liu Yuheng said that although aviation manufacturers and traditional car companies have natural industrial advantages, they are not superior to startups that started as aircraft. Traditional car companies may have manufacturing capabilities and capital capabilities, but they need a professional aircraft team. “It turns out that in the aviation manufacturing industry, only a team with experience in aircraft and aircraft design and manufacturing can do a good job of flying cars.”

Industrial-grade drones and flying car industry technologies are actually interlinked, such as pure electric drive, vertical take-off and landing, and autonomous driving. “In the beginning, the load was increased step by step, and the distance of flight, the method of communication, including the method of control, were constantly iterating.” Liu Yuheng said.

Different from other entrepreneurial directions, flying cars are a multi-disciplinary industry, which has high requirements for product reliability and extremely high requirements for the overall ability of the team. For example, the team needs to do aerodynamics, structure, electric, and many roles for communication.

There are three main configurations of flying cars based on the eVTOL technical route: multi-rotor, compound wing and tilt-rotor. At present, different configurations have gradually penetrated in different applicable scenarios.

Multi-rotor is the fastest landing of the three. Compared with the other two configurations, the entire supply chain system and technical architecture of the multi-rotor are relatively mature, and some multi-rotor companies have already had some small-scale commercialization, especially in the scenic spot to make some sightseeing flying cars. But the biggest challenge of this configuration is that the overall energy efficiency is relatively low, and there are certain challenges in battery life and load.


Source: Fengfei Aviation Technology

The overall state of the compound wing is more eccentric. In China, including many large logistics companies, there are some local areas of normalized flight. Because there are two types of rotors, it is also a limitation on its overall energy efficiency. . At the same time, the cost is higher than multi-rotor.

The tilting rotor is the most efficient and cost-effective configuration among all the categories currently seen. It can not only take off and land vertically, greatly saving the space and conditions for taking off and landing; but also can use it to tilt the rotor. Turn to 90 degrees to help the fixed wing fly.


Source: Xiaopeng Huitian official website

Among them, the multi-rotor is currently the most widely used solution for flying cars on the market. Its advantages are maneuverability and flexibility. It can take off and land vertically without a runway, can hover accurately, can observe a target in detail, is small in size, and is simple to operate. It is easy to use and has a wide range of applications.

Xiaopeng Huitian’s manned eVTOL Traveler X2, Ehang’s intelligent manned eVTOL Ehang 216, and the two zero-gravity manned multi-rotor configurations all adopt multi-rotor layouts.

Fengfei Aviation Technology’s self-driving eVTOL manned aircraft V1500M, Watt Technology’s eVTOL prototype, and Boeing’s subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences’ eVTOL prototype all use a composite wing layout.

Can the landing scene of a flying car run through?

The difficulty of commercialization is a common question that people have about the flying car industry.

Lanchi Ventures believes that in the commercialization of flying cars, the first thing to consider is the densely populated scenes with high time value. short. Or scenic spots, and other special scenes such as emergency rescue.

At the current stage, for the entrepreneurial team, the first test of the commercialization of flying cars is the team’s product engineering capabilities. Including the internal space of the cabin, safety, comfort, and vision need to reach a certain balance. The engineering complexity of the entire product actually exceeds that of ordinary passenger cars.

At the same time, the ability to obtain an airworthiness certificate is also particularly important at this stage. For airspace below 500 meters, it is necessary to cooperate with the supervision to explore a suitable supervision system, which is a very important challenge. At the very beginning, you can try a fixed route to break the game.


Source: Wo Fei Long Sky

In the next stage, what needs to be considered is the business model design of flying cars. One is operated by professional companies, similar to airlines or online car-hailing companies. Consumers pay and purchase services from these professional operating companies every time they need to use it.

Another model is to sell flying cars directly to consumers. This model is similar to today’s car sales. Consumers need to use the routes and flight methods required by the country and ensure safety. Behind this model may involve a series of services such as operation and maintenance, warranty, etc. This model can also learn from the current passenger car field, and there will be specialized service companies to do it.

Liu Yuheng believes that the control learning cost, purchase cost, storage and shutdown cost, management and maintenance cost of flying cars will not be low. In addition, it is an emerging product, and it must be operated by a professional company in the initial stage. It is difficult to directly TO C. Obviously big.

“It’s still early for families to buy flying cars. It must be the first to sell services. Especially in China, cities with more purchasing power are actually more crowded. The urban layout combined with European and American suburban areas is still different.”

In his view, in the business model of flying cars, there may be companies that will try to sell to the C-end, but it is more realistic to make a service provider than to sell to the C-end market.

Liu Yuheng judged that in the future, flying cars may be released in places with sparsely populated areas such as Australia, the United States, and Canada. China is more likely to delineate areas in specific places and then try to fly in closed areas.

In addition, how to plan traffic routes, lightning protection on rainy days, noise prevention on high floors, daily privacy leakage prevention, and anti-disturbance issues are the key to whether flying cars can be promoted on a large scale.

And the transition from manned to unmanned driving, flying cars still have a long way to go.

“The most dangerous time for an aircraft is to take off and land. When it can take off and land at the beginning, someone can take over from the ground to control the risk, and then gradually use unmanned technology. From a pilot controlling an eVOTL to a pilot controlling more Taiwan eVOTL can only transition to pure unmanned driving in the future.” Liu Yuheng said.

Write at the end

The future has come, and the plane transportation that has lasted for thousands of years is evolving toward urban three-dimensional transportation.

The eVTOL investment team of Lanchi Ventures found that more entrepreneurs have begun to enter the flying car industry. “We judge the ecological prosperity of the UAM (Urban Three-Dimensional Transportation) field, and one day it will surpass the existing automotive industry.”

“Whether it is urban air travel, or short-distance flights between suburbs, including the liberalization of the low-altitude flight policy in the future, everyone can actually see such a trend, and it will not be long before landing.” Liu Yuheng said.

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