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Hyundai and General Motors take plunge into electric air taxis

Virgin Atlantic plans to order up to 150 eVTOL aircraft, as part of a new partnership with Vertical Aerospace. Photo: Vertical Aerospace.

Mainstream companies join the craze to make flying cars, but concept faces long road to regulatory approval and commercialisation

(AF) Hyundai Motor and General Motors say  they are pushing ahead with developing flying cars, with the South Korean company expressing optimism it could launch operations as soon as 2025.

The two industrial giants join Virgin Atlantic, Toyota, Daimler and China’s Geely in their quests to launch flying taxi services.

A GM executive said it could take until 2030 for air-taxi services to overcome technical and regulatory hurdles and reach commercialisation. In January, GM unveiled a flying Cadillac concept.

The zero-emissions aircraft, which take off and land like helicopters and carry passengers and cargo, are being developed by a number of startups as well as aircraft makers and automakers, but they face a long road to profitability.

Hyundai is ahead of its previously stated timetable for rolling out air-mobility vehicles, Jose Munoz, the company’s global chief operating officer, told Reuters.

Munoz, who is also chief executive of Hyundai North America, previously said urban air taxis would be in operation at major US airports by 2028 and perhaps earlier. He told Reuters on Monday it could possibly happen before 2025.

“We see this market as a significant growth opportunity,” Munoz said, adding he was “very confident” of the technology’s development.

ELECTRIC BATTERIES

Hyundai is developing air taxis powered by electric batteries that can transport five to six people from highly congested urban centres to airports.

“I think that there’s a long pathway here,” Pamela Fletcher, vice president of GM’s global innovation team. “It’s a very nascent space. There’s a lot of work to be done on the regulatory side, as well as the actual technology side.”

American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and aircraft leasing group Avolon have expressed interest in buying up to 1,000 electric air taxis from Vertical Aerospace, a British start-up.

The maker of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft was founded five years ago by Stephen Fitzpatrick, the Ovo Energy entrepreneur.

Vertical plans to go public this year on the New York Stock Exchange via a merger with Broadstone Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in a deal valuing it at $2.2 billion.

With reporting by Reuters

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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