Another leading carmaker is entering the advanced air mobility market. Volkswagen’s Chinese subsidiary this week confirmed its intention to develop an eVTOL aircraft. Plans unveiled in Beijing on July 27 show an early prototype of a four-passenger eVTOL that the company says will be able to fly up to 200 kilometers (125 miles). It will feature eight rotors installed on an X-wing structure and a pair of propellers for cruise flight.
According to Volkswagen Group (China), the design has been developed by the Air Mobility Project, which the company launched in 2020. A press statement indicates that the flight testing with the first demonstrator model, designated V.MO, could start during the second half of this year, with an improved prototype to be prepared for “a higher standard of flight test” in the summer of 2023. The company has not published a projected timeline for certification and market entry.
According to Germany-based Volkswagen, which includes brands such as Porsche, it views wealthy Chinese customers as likely early adopters of what it calls a “high-end travel concept.” The company has not specified whether it intends to operate the aircraft itself or market them to existing or new commercial operators. The statement refers to plans for “VIP air shuttle services” that would fly within and between cities.
Volkswagen Group (China) says it is now rapidly scaling up its research and development resources and software capabilities. It says that it is already partnered for the project with a company called Hunan Sunward Technology, which is part of the light sports aircraft group Sunward Intelligent Equipment Group located in Hunan province.
“We are committed to creating high-end mobility products through this pioneering project to meet the needs of Chinese customers for innovative technologies and future air mobility services and to further develop Volkswagen’s long-standing reputation in the industry,” said Volkswagen Group (China). “Our team of young Chinese experts started from scratch, using new design concepts and materials, and setting new safety standards to continuously inject innovation into this pioneering project. The unveiling of the demonstrator is the first important milestone in our exploration of urban air mobility, and once again demonstrates the group’s development mission of ‘in China, for China.'”
Chinese automotive group Geely is already active in the AAM sector as an investor in German eVTOL developer Volocopter. Other carmakers investing in eVTOL developers include Toyota (Joby), Suzuki (SkyDrive), FiatChrysler (Archer), Hyundai (Supernal), and Honda.
China's EHang appears to be making rapid progress with its plans to bring an autonomous two-seat eVTOL vehicle called the EH216 into commercial service. The company is also working on a larger, longer-range model called the VT-30.