On September 21, the opening ceremony of the second BEYOND International Technology Innovation Expo (hereinafter referred to as “BEYOND Expo 2022”) was held in BEYOND Metaverse. This time, BEYOND Expo and ICBC (Macau) will build a consumer technology summit, and discuss the application of innovative home technology, personal technology, travel technology and other emerging sub-fields with the world’s top technology companies and representatives, and discuss the application of new technologies to empower industry transformation and innovation. New opportunities, promote the transformation of consumer technology business, and look forward to the development trend of consumer technology.
At this Consumer Technology Summit, TechCrunch reporter Rita Liao had a conversation with Guo Liang, president and chief scientist of Geely Technology Group’s aviation business and president of Wofei Changkong, to discuss the development status and future prospects of manned aircraft.
Electric technology enables low-altitude flight
With the rise of the concept of urban air transportation, eVTOL aircraft (an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft) have attracted the attention of many investment institutions and enterprises. This flying car is more similar to a small helicopter in appearance. For the market where this product is still being developed and tested but not yet widely commercialized, Roland Berger predicted in 2018 that 3,000 flying cars will be put into use worldwide in 2025, and nearly 100,000 flying cars will be in use in 2050. Air taxi, airport shuttle, intercity flight use. In addition, Morgan Stanley also stated that by 2040, the industry scale of global urban air transportation will reach 1.5 trillion US dollars.
“Flying car is just like a flying car in application form, but from the perspective of product technology, it is actually a new energy aircraft. Vertical take-off and landing is not a young technology for aircraft. Humans have tried to use aircraft since helicopters. Bring it to all aspects of life.” Guo Liang pointed out, “The cost of using helicopters as a travel tool is high, and the quality of the drivers is high. Since the entry of pure electric technology into the aviation industry, it has solved the lower-cost vertical to a certain extent. Taking off and landing, there may be some shortcomings in performance in the early stage, but the functionality is very complete, and the overall cost is far lower than the corresponding cost of the corresponding system of traditional aircraft.”
In Guo Liang’s view, electrification is far more disruptive to aircraft than automobiles. There is no paradigm-level change in the definition of power exchange form, function, and business model for automobiles, but for aviation, the noise and cost are significantly higher. Decreased. “The tools for quiet travel can be used on a large scale in the air. This is actually a revolutionary change for aviation, because the previous civil aviation was basically in the hands of several large trunk manufacturers. There may be a process of re-arrangement of the industrial chain in this industry, and the technology of electric aviation is actually a rare change in the transportation paradigm in recent decades.”
While insisting on independent R&D and innovation, Wofei Changkong also adheres to an attitude of openness and cooperation, actively cooperates with international advanced resources, and has reached a cooperation with Volocopter, the pioneer of urban air mobility (UAM). (Chengdu) Technology Co., Ltd. The Volocopter flying car product is planned to obtain the airworthiness certificate of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2023. At that time, Volocopter will be responsible for the airworthiness certification and official launch of the product in China.
Guo Liang said that the aircraft used for high-end travel will be a useful supplement to the private car travel market in the future. Basically, the initial commercial trial is planned in 2025, and the large-scale deployment may be between 2026 and 2030. After 2030, it will develop rapidly. After maturity, the travel cost will probably drop to 2-3 times that of a special car.”
“We are walking on two legs, while pursuing international cooperation, we have a joint venture with the world’s leading flying car company, and we have designed a company like Wolongkongtai in China to promote Europe’s most advanced public travel services in China. On the basis of the domestic technical foundation, especially the supply chain foundation that has been laid for new energy vehicles, the development of this foundation is different from the joint venture that takes off and land products at any time. In terms of product form, we will build a corresponding model. The solution with an active radius of 50 kilometers, on the other hand, can be extended to point-to-point travel services within a range of 200 kilometers in the long-term and can even be extended to 500 kilometers. There are also many mutual supports between these two routes, such as airworthiness certification, shared platform technology, There will be full cooperation in the construction of customer sources and the operation of the business model, so we are more inclined to take the two routes of internationalization and independent control.”
In 2017, Geely Holding Group announced that it had reached a definitive agreement with Terrafugia Flying Car Company of the United States to acquire all of Terrafugia’s business and assets. Terrafugia is committed to developing new modes of travel, focusing on the design and manufacture of flying cars, and has cutting-edge advantages in the fields of future innovative technology, engineering and production.
Speaking of this, Guo Liang said that Terrafugia will focus more on the expansion of existing businesses. “Because the flying car we developed earlier has also obtained the corresponding FDA certification, it should be said that we have carried out a very beneficial strategic exploration on this road, but the existing domestic conditions for such a flying car in the short term are not. It is particularly easy to promote, so they are now more focused on short-term business, and it is also a very important bridgehead to enter the North American market. At the same time, we have promoted the corresponding industrial-grade drones in North America.”
Capital and technology boost the development of the low-altitude flight market
In 2021, eVTOL has once again become a hot spot in the aviation field and capital. Not only has the number of R&D units increased sharply, but capital has also entered. According to relevant statistics, as of 2021, more than 200 companies or scientific research institutions are developing 420 types of related products, and the mainstream aircraft manufacturing industry giants and some well-known car manufacturers have also deployed in the eVTOL aircraft field. In September 2021, Shide Technology completed two rounds of financing within one month, totaling 10 million US dollars; Fengfei Aviation Technology completed a 100 million US dollar Series A financing; Xiaopeng Huitian soon broke the record with financing news and completed more than 500 million US dollars US dollar Series A financing, pre-investment valuation reached 1 billion US dollars.
Flying cars are developing rapidly in China, and corresponding regulatory standards are gradually following up. Guo Liang said that the Civil Aviation Administration of China is also focusing on cultivating a new large civil aviation market. Due to the different technical routes of different enterprises, domestic management tends to give some constructive opinions to enterprises and formulate corresponding rules in a timely manner.
At the same time, the Civil Aviation Administration of China is also trying to coordinate and simplify the airworthiness certification work of domestic and foreign aviation companies. “In fact, our country has a lot of cooperation with the United States and Europe in airworthiness certification, including large aircraft and other small aircraft. Such a case. Frankly speaking, the three countries and regions have their own concerns, and the industrial base of each country is different. For example, the United States is a country with very developed general aviation. In this regard, it started a little late, and there may still be relatively obvious gaps in the market, supervision, and talent base.”
However, he also pointed out that domestic new energy vehicles have a deep accumulation, especially in terms of cost reliability and industrial chain maturity, they have a global comparative advantage, so they also have a certain industrial chain advantage in the electrification of low-altitude aircraft. “Such a gap is not necessarily a bad thing. In some cases, the market will be more open, and the cost of building new infrastructure in China may be lower. There may be some late-mover advantages. The complementarity of the flying car industry chain or the incubation angle of the industry chain will generate a lot of synergy and cooperation.”
With limited land areas in cities and low-flying aircraft that are cheaper to produce and operate than helicopters, this imaginary is accelerating. It is generally believed that the commercialization of flying cars will gradually begin in 2025. Guo Liang believes that some projects are expected to gradually enter the public’s field of vision, opening a small number of routes in isolated airspace, and developing towards a more private experience; The commercial development path of carrying people after emptying and reloading goods slowly penetrates into the scene of logistics and public services, and gradually enters the public eye.
“Ten years from now, there may not be a scene of walking through buildings like a sci-fi movie, but when you look up at the sky, you may occasionally see a flock of flying cars passing by, and you can be on the roof of an office building after get off work.” Take a flight’, go to a nice dinner outside the city, and fly back to your neighborhood…that’s where point-to-point traffic in the air is very tempting.”