TCab Tech this week reported it has started flight testing an early skeleton technology demonstrator for the five-seat E20 eVTOL aircraft the Chinese company is developing. According to a company statement issued on August 15, engineering teams have successfully completed a series of tests, including system joint debugging and a ballast durability assessment, as well as both tethered and untethered flight testing.
As part of its development program, the TCab Tech team has built a skeleton airframe of its so-called “Time Taxi” with the same take-off weight, power arrangement, and system equipment as a full-scale E20 model. So far, the airframe has accumulated more than 320 take-offs and landings at a takeoff weight of more than two tons. Engineers will now shift their focus to examining the test data and refining the simulation mode, power unit configurations, and control law parameters as the aircraft enters comprehensive flight testing and verification.
Powered by six of Safran’s EngineUs electric motors, the E20 has two sets of five-bladed, low-speed tilting propellers positioned at the wingtips and a T-shaped tail section. The aircraft is also equipped with two fixed lift rotors positioned on a beam projecting forward from the wing. These fixed rotors are designed to be stowed during cruise flights for enhanced aerodynamic efficiency.
According to Safran, the EngineUs 100 motors delivers over 100 kW of power at take-off and include a fully integrated motor controller. The French aerospace group expects to gain certification of its motors from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) by before the end of 2023. The company is also providing the E20’s air-cooled thermal management system.
With a maximum payload of 450 kilograms (992 pounds), the E20 eVTOL claims a maximum range of 200 kilometers (125 miles), a cruise speed of 260 kilometers per hour, and a maximum speed of 320 kilometers per hour. The start-up is targeting type certification from the CAAC in 2025 followed by certification with EASA at a later date.
According to TCab Tech, it has received more than 200 provisional orders for its E20 aircraft, including an agreement for 50 with Asian Express Aviation Group, signed in February. The Chinese media has reported the aircraft is expected to be priced at 7 million yuan (approximately $960,900).
Headquartered in Shanghai, TCab Tech was launched in 2021 as an aerial ridesharing service and quickly secured around $10 million through two rounds of seed funding. This February, the company raised an additional $15 million through a pre-series A financing round. Grand Flight, a Venture-capital group, spearheaded the round with participation from Kunlun Capital and Korea Investment Partners Capital. Existing shareholders BlueRun Ventures and Decent Capital also contributed to the funding.
In addition to working on the E20 eVTOL vehicle, TCab Tech has developed a concept for a vertiport-based operational ecosystem and is working with district officials in East China’s Anhui Province to create low-altitude tourism, short-distance transportation, and urban travel. On the training front, the company has partnered with the Civil Aviation Flight University of China to establish a talent pipeline as part of efforts to ensure the Chinese aerospace sector has the skills it needs to support the country’s national objective of bringing so-called “Made in China” eVTOL aircraft to the global market. Several other Chinese companies are working on eVTOL designs including EHang, AutoFlight and Aerofugia (a subsidiary of automotive group Geely).