HT Aero, a Guangzhou-based urban air mobility company backed by Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer XPeng, has secured over US$500 million to advance its goal of developing a true flying car by 2024.
The Series A funding round was led by IDG Capital, 5Y Capital and XPeng, with contributors including Sequoia China, Eastern Bell Capital, GGV Capital, GL Ventures, and Yunfeng Capital.
“The Series A financing will provide us with sufficient resources to advance our research and development, acquire top-tier talent, and to continue to gain airworthiness provision and certification,” Deli Zhao, HT Aero’s founder and president, stated in a press release.
“Our next-generation model will be a fully integrated flying vehicle and automobile, designed for both low-altitude air travel and road driving. We are planning for an official roll-out in 2024,” he added.
HT Aero, or Huitian, has developed multiple eVTOL prototypes since 2013 and claims to have conducted more than 15,000 successful crewed test flights. Its most recent model is the fifth-generation, all-electric X2, a two-seat multicopter designed to cruise at a maximum speed of 130 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour) with an endurance of 35 minutes.
The company envisions occupants controlling their flight with “one-key start, one-key return, and one-key landing.” Behind the scenes, the aircraft will perform “intelligent autonomous flight route planning,” comprehensively evaluating factors including surrounding buildings, no-fly and restricted areas, and weather conditions.
Unlike most of today’s eVTOL developers, which expect their aircraft to be used in ridesharing services by qualified commercial operators, HT Aero aims to develop vehicles for individual consumers.
It’s a tall order. Making personal flight broadly accessible in urban areas will require not only high levels of aircraft autonomy, but also suitable infrastructure, air traffic management solutions, and regulatory paradigms — none of which currently exist.
Combining the functions of a car and an aircraft creates additional technical challenges in terms of optimizing design. But HT Aero’s investors appear undaunted by the prospect, forecasting massive returns for the company that can unlock this aspirational form of travel.
“We believe that the flying vehicle sector will be a trillion-dollar market,” stated Guangfu Cui, partner of IDG Capital. “The rapid technological evolution of batteries, autonomous driving, and materials science provide the synergies needed to create a new paradigm for flying cars.”