Currently reading: Xpeng AeroHT launches six-wheeled truck with flying module
Radical Land Aircraft Carrier confirmed for production this year, hitting the market at around £134,000

Chinese company Xpeng AeroHT will begin production of a radical six-wheeled off-road truck, equipped with a modular 'flying car', later this year.

The firm will begin taking orders of the outlandish Land Aircraft Carrier in the final quarter of 2024 before customer deliveries begin in 2025 - making it one of just a few companies globally to have a 'flying car' on the market.

The Land Aircraft Carrier is effectively a vehicle of two halves: a rugged, highly capable pick-up truck with a separate, drone-style aircraft attached to its rear, which can be detached at will and piloted at low altitude for short distances.

The final design is still subject to changes, but Xpeng AeroHT founder and president Wang Tan says "all key tests of the R&D validation phase" are complete and preparations for production are under way. Final specifications are still to come.

Speaking to Autocar at CES in Las Vegas, Tan gave an idea of what to expect from the production version of the Land Aircraft Carrier: "The ground module is a very cool off-roader, but the performance is way better than other off-road cars because it has three axles and a six-wheel-drive set-up with rear-wheel steering.

"If you're on a trip and you find a fantastic, gorgeous place, you can park up, release the flying portion and drive it yourself - and you can see a different view that you've never seen before."

"We call it a luxury car", said Tan, suggesting an equivalent start price of between $170,000 and $200,000 (£134,000-£157,000).

The Land Aircraft Carrier will initially be sold in China, with its maker targeting annual local volumes of around 10,000 units per year. But Tan said "we are an international company, and in the future we will have a big market around the world".

The company is in talks with China's civil aviation administration over getting the flying module certified for public use, but has not yet begun discussions with equivalent Western bodies.

AeroHT was founded in 2013 and acquired by Xpeng in 2020. It has developed five electric cars over the past decade and is now at the point at which it is confident to launch one to market.

Employing nearly 1000 people, 85% of whom are in research and development, Xpeng AeroHT is the largest flying car company in Asia, according to Tan.

Tan said the time is right to start considering flying cars as a viable commercial prospect: "When I was a child, they were just in futuristic movies, but the supply chain of electric cars in China is world-beating.

"We have the opportunity to use the battery systems and the propulsion systems. Before we didn't have this, but day-by-day we have established this supply chain. Flying control systems are getting better and better, and the regulation now is way better than before, which supports us to have this."

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Xpeng flying car

He said Xpeng AeroHT's aim "is to integrate modern aviation and the intelligent car to offer the safest flying cars to our customers."

"Our vision," he said, "is to give cars wings, not just [launch] a regular VTOL."

Tan said a lot of Chinese car companies have established flying car operations, because the country has the best market 'temperature' for such concepts, meaning its EV supply chain and low vehicle prices give a good base for expansion into other modes of transport.

At the heart of the company's ambition is the belief that aircraft need not be as difficult to own and operate as they are currently: "If you want to buy a helicopter or airplane, it's difficult in terms of price, parking... But if you have a car, you can park easily in your own spot. This is why we want to come with a car," said Tan.

Tan has a helicopter licence himself and said obtaining one is "very difficult, because, first of all it is very difficult to learn: you have the left pedal, the right pedal, the joystick... It's very complex.

"So, if you want the licence, you need at least 40 hours," he said, referring to China's aviation certification process, "but this one is way easier to get."

Tan said that the autonomous capabilities of the flying module attached to the Land Aircraft Carrier make it much easier to learn how to use it, but the company has not yet released specifics on how this works.

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Tan said developing autonomous flying cars is much easier – in a legislative and practical sense  – than conventional cars, because "you can just fly over barriers; it's not as if you need to care about other cars and traffic lights...".

Final specifications of the flying module – including range and performance – will be detailed in the final quarter of this year.

As well as confirming plans for the market launch of the Land Aircraft Carrier, Xpeng also demonstrated its new flying supercar concept at CES.

This other concept is designed as a showcase of Xpeng AeroHT's ultimate goal: to create a flying car that can be driven on the ground and piloted in the air from the same seat, with the same controls. Being able to take off vertically gives the concept an edge over other flying cars because it doesn't require a runway, Tan claims.

There are no immediate plans to put it into production alongside the Land Aircraft Carrier, but it is "not just an idea": a running prototype – weighing a claimed two tonnes – is in testing, and the concept on show at CES had functioning rotor arms and propellors.

A decision on its commercial viability will be made when the propulsion and electronic technology is mature enough.

For now, Xpeng AeroHT is confronting the primary challenge of reducing kerb weight. Tan said you have to achieve the optimum balance between the strength, weight and cost of the materials used in a flying car, while ensuring the electric propulsion units are strong enough to generate lift effectively.

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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Peter Cavellini 9 January 2024

And pray tell, what's the use for this flying object in everyday life?

jason_recliner 26 October 2023

I see LSD has finally taken off in China. 

Saucerer 25 October 2023
Looks like a squashed Cybertruck.