China to spend $40bn on flying electric vehicle sector

Xpeng Aeroht’s image of its combined ground vehicle and flying unit – the design for which has yet to be finalised
China’s Guangdong province is planning to invest $41.4bn in the emerging “low-altitude economy” over the next 2.5 years.

The phrase refers to the nascent industrial sector focussed on electric airborne vehicles that are expected to enter Pearl River Delta’s urban scene over this decade.

China Daily reported last week that the plan was to build a “world-leading low-altitude economy hub” in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai.

He Tianxing, the vice-president of Guangzhou-based air-mobility company EHang, said: “The low-altitude economy is not an industry that can be developed overnight.”

He said the plan issued by the local government covered everything from airspace management to infrastructure construction.

Such an economy would need hundreds of takeoff and landing points to accommodate air commuting.

For the vehicles, EHang and its rival Xpeng Aeroht have both sought “type certificates” from the Civil Aviation Administration of China. These are approvals of the design of a particular vehicle.

EHang obtained the first, in April, for its EH216-S – a passenger-carrying, pilotless, vertical take-off and landing vehicle, or VTOL.

Certification was granted after the successful completion of more than 30,000 trial flights.

  • See the vehicle in action:

Xpeng Aeroht, the flying car unit of Chinese EV-maker Xpeng Motors, has had its type certificate application accepted but it may have to wait more than a year for approval.

Qiu Mingquan, vice-president of Xpeng Aeroht, told China Daily: “The true arrival of flying cars in urban air mobility may take some time. But the modular flying car targeting individual users will be able to fly in the next five years because the land module can be driven and the air module can fly in some specific areas.”

Nikkei Asia notes that the price tags for these vehicles start at around $138,000, “within reach of wealthy individuals or businesses, and far less costly than conventional private jets”.

It adds that EHang still needs an air-operator certificate to open for business.

The size of the Chinese low-altitude economy exceeded $70bn in 2023, up 34% from the previous year, according to an April report by CCID consulting.

The figure is expected to top $140bn in 2026, the report added.

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