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Chinese electric car start-up Xpeng showcases a new flying vehicle

Electric vehicle start-up Xpeng unveiled its first-generation prototype for a flying vehicle at the Beijing Auto Show on September 26, 2020.

Evelyn Cheng

BEIJING – Alibaba-backed Xpeng is investing money in flying car technology as part of the company’s long-term strategy.

The electric carmaker revealed the first in a series of electric flying vehicles the start-up said it is developing at the Beijing Auto Show on Saturday.

With eight propellers and a capsule-shaped frame, the vehicle looks more like a drone carrying humans than a flying car. The prototype was developed by Xpeng Heitech, a technology unit owned by the majority of Xpeng and CEO He Xiaopeng.

Xpeng said in a statement that the unit is part of the company̵

7;s long-term research and development and that the core business and development strategy remain unchanged. The company expects benefits from research in areas such as accuracy and mapping technologies.

The flying vehicle can hold up to two passengers and is designed for low altitudes from 5 meters to 25 meters (16.4 feet to 82 feet), according to Xpeng. The project is in a concept phase and the company said it will evaluate the space’s prospects before proceeding with any substantial investment.

“This is a long-term R&D exploration to truly think about mobility in a broader context,” Brian Gu, vice president and president of Xpeng, told CNBC in an interview on the sidelines of the Auto Show. Beijing on Saturday.

“We think that in the future not only electric vehicles will have the autonomous driving characteristics of intelligent mobility, but with other technologies, they will enable other devices that can create a multidimensional ecosystem, which will be very exciting,” said Gu. “That’s why we are investing in that area and doing some exploration.”

Regulation has been a major obstacle to the development of human transporter drones and self-driving cars.

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