Volkswagen Group China has unveiled its passenger eVTOL prototype — the V.MO — joining other automotive giants, including Hyundai, Toyota and Stellantis, with a stake in the eVTOL ecosystem.
The V.MO prototype is 11.2 meters (36.7 feet) long with a 10.6 m (34.8 ft) span. It is a lift-plus-cruise design and features eight lift rotors and two propellers for horizontal flight.
Volkswagen Group China launched the Vertical Mobility project in 2020 to explore this next generation of mobility solutions, including urban air mobility (UAM). After intensive research, conceptual work and development, the project team developed its first validation model that was unveiled as the V.MO.
The company told eVTOL.com that besides certification with the Chinese regulator, there is no parallel certification effort with other regulators, as the Chinese market and airworthiness certification will be the priority. However, the company did not rule out that the vehicle will be marketed outside China in the future.
The final version of the fully-electric, automated eVTOL could eventually carry four passengers plus luggage, over a distance of up to 200 kilometers (124 miles). Volkswagen also said that the production version is planned to have a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph).
The company stated that it will develop an autonomous aircraft that could also be flown by a pilot, according to the requirements of the customer. The company confirmed with eVTOL.com that they are working very closely on this subject with Chinese authorities, benefiting from the country’s current experience and operational legislation for UAM.
The prototype concept is based on existing autonomous driving solutions and battery technology for emission-free mobility. The group will conduct several flight tests later this year to optimize the concept. An improved prototype will undergo further advanced test flights by late summer 2023.
“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 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 toward 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.”
This initial prototype has also been nicknamed the ‘Flying Tiger,’ due to its distinctive black and gold livery, and commemorates its launch in the Year of the Tiger.
The Vertical Mobility project requires interdisciplinary and innovative thinking, and the group put together a team of young, local experts to drive it forward. They have been supported by Chinese partners, including Hunan Sunward Technology, a subsidiary of Hunan-based manufacturing group Sunward. Sunward specializes in aviation product development, sales and services and is a market leader in the light sport aircraft (LSA) industry, with its Sunward SA60L, a single-engine, two-seater LSA. U.K. design consultancy tangerine, which specializes in mobility design, is also collaborating in the project.
Volkswagen Group China believes that UAM is a fast-emerging, key market that aims to use air space for short- and medium-distance connections, especially in and between large cities. In China, it is set to play a significant role in the future of urban and intercity transportation in its congested megacities, believing eVTOL air vehicles will be able to transport passengers more quickly and efficiently than current conventional means of terrestrial transport and with greater flexibility.