AE200: Chinese auto giant tests helicopter-like largest electric car
Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group announced last week that its subsidiary Aerofugia successfully completed a test flight of its prototype electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) car on Monday.
The car is from the AE200-series and boasts a tilt-motor configuration, a broad, top-mounted wing, and four long propulsion pods, each with a propeller at each end.
It was tested within two months of Aerofugia obtaining the country’s first license for such a manned flying car. It currently has space for one pilot and four passengers.
If the vehicle seems familiar, it’s because it closely resembles the Terrafugia Transition flying car that came out of Massachusetts a few years back. Terrafugia’s flying car cost $279,000 and could travel a distance of 800 kilometers.
Terrafugia was acquired by Geely in 2017, after which it was more or less shut down and relocated to China in 2021.
Geely then invested some $55 million into German eVTOL company Volocopter, opened up a subsidiary called Aerofugia in Chengdu, and backed the merger of Terrafugia with Chinese drone maker AOSSCI to go into the eVTOL air taxi business.
The company also made some other investments acquiring Volvo Cars in 2010, a controlling stake in Lotus Cars in 2017, and a minority interest in Mercedes-Benz Group in 2018.
“Geely’s successful test flight shows that it has enough scientific and technical capability to realize [the commercial viability of] its flying car project,” told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) Wang Ke, a senior consultant focused on the car industry at Beijing-based consultancy Analysys.
“The domestic flying car industry, however, is still at the early stage of development.”
Accumulating safety data
Aerofugia still has many test flights to complete in order to accumulate enough safety data to apply for a formal license to commercially release the eVTOL vehicle. An Aerofugia representative told the SCMP that this type of certification is likely to be obtained “within three to five years”.
China has seen a particular interest in eVTOL vehicles as of late. The current prototypes being tested are designed to address ground traffic congestion and reduce carbon footprints.
“At present, the technical safety and stability have yet to be verified,” Ke of Analysys said. “Given that flying cars are still new in China, it will take time for people to accept it.”
The AE200 prototype is the largest Chinese eVTOL ever flown. Aerofugia is also working on another aircraft, the TF-2, that it hopes to get certified and into service by 2025-6.