While there has been a lot of hype over the future of electric vertical takeoff and landing craft (eVTOL) for use as air taxis in cities, we haven’t seen much in the way of concepts from automotive manufacturers. They’re already too focused on coming up with electric vehicles and trying to catch Tesla to do that. But, Volkswagen recently surprised us with a press release showing us its take on it.
In 2020, Volkswagen Group China began a Vertical Mobility project to examine the next generation of mobility alternatives, including the urban air mobility market and extending city traffic into airspace. After thorough study, concept development, and prototyping, the team has completed its first validation model: V.MO. The “Flying Tiger,” owing to its distinctive black and gold paint job, was dubbed the initial prototype after it was unveiled in the Year of the Tiger.
“Through this pilot project, we are bringing Volkswagen’s long tradition of precision engineering, design, and innovation to the next level, by developing a premium product that will serve the vertical mobility needs of our future tech savvy Chinese customers,” said Dr. Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China. “This is a pioneering project which our young team of Chinese experts started from scratch – they are working with new design concepts and materials while developing new safety standards, disrupting and innovating every step of the way. The launch of this stunning validation model – the V.MO – is the first of many remarkable milestones on our exciting journey towards urban air travel, and a perfect example of our ‘From China, For China’ mission. Our long-term aim is to industrialize this concept and, like a ‘Flying Tiger’, break new ground in this emerging and fast-evolving new mobility market.”
Volkswagen Group China is building up local research and software expertise to react more quickly to consumer demands and significantly speed up innovation. The Vertical Mobility initiative calls for multidisciplinary thinking in a new area, and the Group established a team of young, local experts to drive it forward. They’ve received assistance from Chinese partners including Hunan Sunward Technology, a subsidiary of the Sunward group based in Hunan. The firm specializes on developing, marketing, and servicing aviation products.
Air mobility is a fast-growing industry that aims to use airspace for short- and medium-distance connections, especially between and above major cities. In China’s congested megacities, it will have a significant impact in the future of urban and intercity transportation. V.MO is likely to be marketed as a premium product for high-net-worth Chinese tech savvy customers, such as VIP air shuttle services, in the first phase of its commercial usage.
VTOL air vehicles will be able to transport people more quickly and effectively than today’s conventional modes of terrestrial transportation, with greater flexibility. As the Vertical Mobility project develops, Volkswagen Group China will work with Chinese authorities to obtain certification.
While the concept is far away from large scale use in cities, this does give us a peek into the future of air mobility.
Featured image provided by Volkswagen.
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