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EV maker Xpeng's flying car takes first flight in Beijing in step towards commercialisation

A flying car made by AeroHT, an affiliate of Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng, took off at Beijing Daxing International Airport on Sunday for its maiden flight in the capital city, as the firm moves closer to commercialising its aircraft amid growing policy support for the so-called low-altitude economy.

The X2 was demonstrated during the China Langfang International Economic and Trade Fair, which kicked off on the same day and runs through Thursday.

AeroHT, controlled by Xpeng co-founder and CEO He Xiaopeng, said in April that it had started making preparations for the commercialisation of its flying car and planned to take orders beginning in the fourth quarter this year. The company did not provide an expected price range.

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China's low-altitude economy, consisting of businesses operating unmanned drones and manned aerial vehicles below 3,000 metres in altitude, has been on the rise since 2021, after the central government introduced policies and regulations to bolster the nascent sector.

Development could further accelerate after the central government in 2024 included the low-altitude economy in its work report for the first time. Twenty-six provincial governments laid out plans for the low-altitude economy this year, according to official data published in April.

The Beijing municipality in March issued a blueprint for its low-altitude sector, with plans to establish three major air routes connecting neighbouring areas by 2027, covering scenarios such as emergency rescue, logistics and distribution, cultural tourism, commuting and more.

The country's low-altitude market is forecast to exceed 1 trillion yuan (US$138 billion) by 2026, up from 506 billion yuan in 2023, according to a report by the China Centre for Information Industry Development, a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

AeroHT began developing its flying cars in 2013. It has established research centres and testing bases in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province and the headquarters of Xpeng, as well as labs for fly-caring research in Shenzhen and Shanghai.

X2 completed its first public flight in October 2022 in Dubai. The company competes in China with rivals such as Zhejiang Geely Holding Group subsidiary Aerofugia and Ehang, which completed last month the Middle East's first autonomous passenger-carrying flight.

While China's low-altitude economy is beginning to take shape, underdeveloped infrastructure and lack of industry-wide standards are hindering large-scale commercial roll-out, Wu Ximing, deputy director of the Science and Technology Committee of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, was quoted as saying in a People's Daily report in April.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2024 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.