AeroMobil has unveiled plans for its next generation of electric VTOL air taxis, dubbed the 5.0 VTOL
With no shortage of all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) start-ups garnering investment across the globe (although predominantly in Silicon Valley), any would-be business has to stand out – and AeroMobil certainly manages that.
The Slovakian firm recently announced the extension of its product range with the AeroMobil 5.0 VTOL concept – a vehicle that’s part supercar and part aeroplane and part taxi.
The concept builds on the company’s previous effort, dubbed the AeroMobil 4.0 STOL (short take-off and landing), which paired a custom 2-litre turbo charged 4-cylinder boxer ICE with twin 80 kW (110 BHP) electric motors. An adaptive transmission allows the vehicle to move swiftly from the road to the air, where the ICE can deliver up to 224 kW (300 BHP) of power.
The 5.0 VTOL, meanwhile, uses two electric rotors mounted on wings which fold out from behind the cabin, while horizontal thrust is provided by an electric rear-mounted pusher propeller. The vehicle will seat four passengers, offering “similar comfort and user experience as next generation electric vehicles,” AeroMobil says, with all power in the powertrain presumably derived from an internal battery pack.
At present, there aren’t many more details on the 5.0 VTOL other than a few concept sketches and features listed by the company. However, it has also promised an adaptive suspension system for smooth landing and take-off, and an optimised battery package and drivetrain that will support fleet use.
While many firms have opted for either short-haul urban flights or long-haul capability, AeroMobil’s offering seems to hinge on using the two models in tandem. “The multi-product strategy means we can provide urban travel with the AeroMobil 5.0 VTOL and intra-city travel with the AeroMobil 4.0 STOL. Our strategy solves the limitations of alternative VTOL concepts which are tied to dedicated landing pods rather than also using the existing road infrastructure,” notedco-founder and CEO Juraj Vaculik.
Although currently in its “testing phase”, AeroMobil says the 4.0 will enable intra-city travel with up to 700 km range – more than double that of most rival eVTOL passenger drone concepts. The company says this is the result of “much higher energy efficiency” although how this is quantified is not made clear.
Company chairman Patrick Hessel added that: “AeroMobil 4.0 STOL uses several patented technologies, a highly innovative combustion engine and has the benefit of using existing aerospace and automotive technology, combined in a unique way, thus achieving far greater energy efficiency, speed and range than any electric VTOL,” suggesting that the inclusion of an ICE may well be the key. “It is also designed within existing regulation, hence enabling much sooner go-to-market in 2020 than the electric VTOL category, which in general is being mooted as ready for shipment in 2025” Hessel continued.
Indeed, the company is moving towards planned production, in which the AeroMobil 4.0 STOL will be available in a limited series to private owners around the world in 2020, at a cost of somewhere between US$1.2 million and US$1.6 million.
Production of the AeroMobil 5.0 VTOL model would then follow, and the model should be available “within the next seven to ten years” the company says, in line the creation and build out of necessary infrastructure and regulation.
“We see flying cars as versatile vehicles that both fly and drive, which is what we will be able to offer with the AeroMobil 4.0 STOL and AeroMobil 5.0 VTOL concept. We plan to deliver the vehicles with the range needed for urban and intra-urban journeys, allowing customers to travel in any weather conditions while maximising the efficiency for flying taxi operators,” said CTO Douglas MacAndrew.
Fundamentally, the two models are aimed at the same “urban aero-taxi” market eyed by most other VTOL start-ups. Although neither is production-ready just yet, successfully developing a working commercial vehicle by 2020 would undoubtedly give AeroMobil the edge on many of its competitors – a very exciting prospect, even if it is a hybrid.