Life is amazing in 2023 — we have tiny computers with amazing cameras in our pockets; massive, dirt-cheap (or free!) TVs; cars that (sort of) drive themselves — but where are our flying cars and jet packs? The flying cars are at least in China, or that’s where they’ll get their first real commercial flights, anyway. EHang Holdings said last week that the government there issued it a certification to start actual passenger trials in the country.
The company will be allowed to take passengers on aerial tours, which Bloomberg reported it will offer through local partnerships in Xinjiang province and Shenzen. The “type certificate,” issued by CAAC, China’s aviation authority, signifies that its E216-S air taxi “fully complies with CAAC’s safety standards and airworthiness requirements.”
The EH216-S aren’t flying cars in the sense that some of us grew up hoping for — you’re not going to lift off from your driveway and land on a road to drive your last mile or anything. The autonomous, battery-powered air taxi looks like a giant, remote-controlled drone, only it can carry two people through the air for short destinations.
Bloomberg’s report says that, according to EHang, the EH216-S can fly for 25 minutes at about 62mph. The company did not disclose how much its tours will cost. The company demonstrated a version of its flying taxi in the US back in 2020, flying about 100 people in Raleigh, North Carolina. The company said then that it could carry about 500–600 pounds of cargo or passengers.
As Bloomberg points out, air taxis are still a few years out in the US, but that doesn’t stop companies from putting skin in the game. Boeing-backed Wisk, which showed off its four-seater flying taxi last year, recently settled a legal fight with competitor Archer. And Archer secured a deal with Stellantis to mass produce its electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles as soon as 2024.
Without FAA approval, though, the market is tough, and some companies, like Kitty Hawk, have pulled out.