China's EV upstart Xpeng ready to take off with flying permit
Xpeng, a Chinese electric vehicle upstart, is gearing up to launch its eVTOL into the air as it secures a key regulatory green light.
AeroHT, owned by Xpeng and Xpeng founder He Xiaopeng, just obtained a special flight permit from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the country's counterpart to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The authorization grants permission to AeroHT's X2 electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft to fly with a pilot under spcial conditions. With the permit, AeroHT says it will launch a series of manned flying tests to accumulate data for future mass production.
X2, which AeroHT describes as a "flying car," is a two-seat, carbon-fiber quadcopter that sports no wheels -- though the firm's next-generation aircraft appears to be a sedan with wings, according to concept photos on its website.
For now, X2 is designed for "future low-altitude city flights and is perfect for short-distance city journeys such as sightseeing and medical transportation," says its product information. It can be operated manually or in an autonomous mode that automates start, return and landing operations. The model has flown more than 3,000 tests since its maiden flight in June 2021.
AeroHT is one of two ventures that have come out of nine-year-old Xpeng and fundraised independently. In October 2021, the flying company pocketed over $500 million in a Series A round led by IDG Capital, 5Y Capital and Xpeng itself. Remember the ridable robot pony for kids? That's the other project from Xpeng, Xpeng Robotics, which racked up a $100 million Series A round in July last year. IDG Capital was again the lead backer, with Xpeng participating.
Xpeng is pursuing these ambitions at a time its main EV business is hitting a speed bump. The carmaker has pushed back its profit goal until 2025 after a disappointing 2022, in which it delivered less than half of its annual sales target, reported Bloomberg earlier this week. The Guangzhou-headquartered firm is facing a price war with established Chinese EV maker BYD, which focuses on affordability, and Tesla, which has slashed prices a few times to lure more thrifty consumers in the world's largest auto market.