XPeng got a lot of headlines this week for the first global public flight of XPENG AEROHT’s XPENG X2 flying car. It was a fun event and you can watch a video of the milestone below. Seeing the flying electric car in the skies of Dubai definitely makes one feel like the future has arrived. The cartoon The Jetsons immediately comes to mind. No doubt about it, I instinctively want to get super excited about the XPENG X2, and more broadly the potential for flying cars that normal people can buy and use. However … other parts of my brain keep pumping the brakes. Before we bring our feet back down to ground, though, let’s enjoy these stunning photos and visualizations below as well as the fresh new video of the XPENG X2 flying car’s fun achievement.
That’s the real-world video of the XPENG X2’s Dubai flight, but I have to say that this next video is much cooler even though it’s only a visualization.
Continuing on with the positive points first, aside from the fact that the X2 is a stunning electric car that can legitimately fly, I think the autonomous side of it really deserves to be highlighted. One of my first thoughts with a vehicle like this is, “Well, come on, you have to get a pilot’s license to use this.” Another thought is, “but how safe is this flying car — how likely is it that someone will crash?” With those thoughts in mind, I found it inspiring that the XPENG X2 can simply fly itself if you wish.
“The XPENG X2 is equipped with two driving modes: manual and autonomous. During the autonomous flight, passengers can enjoy a safe and intelligent flying experience with simple start, return and landing operations at the touch of a button.”
I’d be all about that autonomous mode! Press a button and the flying car takes me where I want to go? Yes, please.
There’s plenty more about the X2 that is appealing, and this is a convincing statement from XPeng: “The XPENG X2 is a two-seater flying car. It does not produce any carbon dioxide emissions during flight and is a step forward in the pursuit of urban green transportation. It will be suitable for future low-altitude city flights and is perfect for short-distance city journeys such as sightseeing and medical transportation.”
“The XPENG X2 is the fifth-generation flying car independently developed and manufactured by XPENG AEROHT. For the first time, the X2 adopts an enclosed cockpit with a minimalist teardrop-shaped design and a sci-fi appearance that takes high-efficient aerodynamics into account to achieve the ultimate in-flight performance. In order to reduce weight, the XPENG X2 has a complete carbon fiber structure.”
So far, so good. But how practical is the X2 in actuality? How much will it cost? Who will actually be able to afford it? I assume it won’t be replacing the Toyota Corolla anytime soon. Yes, new tech starts out expensive and eventually drops in cost and trickles down to the masses, but will flying cars like this ever drop down to a mass-market level. Small planes haven’t. Helicopters haven’t. Even normal cars are barely affordable to many people anymore. But will flying cars ever even becoming accessible or practical for the very wealthy?
Even if the X2 or something like it costs $250,000, or $150,000 if we want to get ambitious, and numerous millionaires and billionaires decide they have to have it, where will they be able to use it? Perhaps they can fly from their large lawn to a nearby gold course? Perhaps … ? How much space will country clubs set aside for flying cars? How will they feel about people flying near their golf course and spoiling the natural, quiet, protected atmosphere of a country club? How many rooftop pads will there be for such vehicles, and will those be where it’s convenient — where you want to fly? Assuming all of the above falls in place and somehow works, what will the rules of the sky be? People won’t be able to engage in a flying free-for-all across the city, unpredictably fly above major shopping areas, or criss-cross others in the urban environment Delhi style and hope for the best.
Yes, they are super cool pictures and ideas, but practically speaking, I’m not sure where the future of flying electric cars will be. Will they remain simply a fun sideshow? Will they find any practical, truly useful role in society?
All images courtesy of XPeng
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