23 Jul 2021

Is Aviation The Future of The Automobile?

Startup, Venture Capital, eVTOL, Flying cars, Aviation Tech

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

On 30 June the mysterious object gliding above Slovakia was a convertible sports car.

Klein Vision’s “AirCar” prototype is the stuff of 20th century Sci-Fi. A modified BMW, with foldable wings and a 600-mile range, AirCar is a feat of engineering that seems designed to bring out your inner five year old.

It looks like a sports car, it flies like a plane, and it can switch between the two in less than three minutes. In less than a week, its 35-minute test flight has been watched almost 4 million times.

AirCar is also launching at an exciting time for the industry. The flying cars market is heating up and the returns for investors who anticipate the shape of that market could be staggering.

Anton Zajac, co-founder of Klein Vision heralded “a new era of dual transportation vehicles” in AirCar’s glowing press release.

AirCar, Startup, Venture Capital, Tech, Flying Car

AirCar. Image via Pravda.sk.

It’s a shame that AirCar’s “dual” flying car design is looking increasingly dated.

Ready for take-off

Flying cars have been a staple of popular culture. Ian Fleming was writing spy thrillers and children’s bedtime stories about retractable wings in the 60s and they’re a staple of fiction and TedX talks to this day.

For the first time, they are starting to look like a viable market too – and things are moving quickly.

In 2018, NASA entered a research pact with Uber to work on urban air travel. In 2021, NFT, a Silicon Valley start-up began accepting pre-orders for what might be the world’s first commercially available flying car (and they’re not alone – you can read more here).

As the rate of urbanisation increases, and mega-cities continue to struggle with mega-congestion, the potential of this new market is jaw-dropping. Morgan Stanley recently produced a Blue Paper which estimated that flying cars could be worth $1.5 trillion by 2040.

So, why not AirCar?

Flying cars might be the future, but how we define flying cars is starting to change.

The revolutionary potential of urban air mobility is now premised around the concept of a quiet, compact aircraft that can take off and land in densely populated areas. In other words, a vehicle you won’t get stuck in traffic on its way to the airport.

More Blade Runner than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

With eVTOL, this concept is becoming a reality. eVTOL or “electric vertical take-off and landing” is another way of describing vehicles (like drones) that don’t need a runway to fly and don’t’ rely on fossil fuels.

In recent years manned-eVTOL technology has made huge advances. The new generation of prototypes are smaller, quieter and easier to operate.

And they’re attracting a huge amount of capital.

Bladerunner, Flying Car, Startup, Venture Capital, Auto Tech

Flying car in Blade Runner. Image via Pinterest from Concept Art World.

Big plans, big players

Uber, UPS, Fidelity, Toyota, Black Rock and Airbus are just a few of the companies with big stakes in the fast-moving flying car business.

Joby Aviation, a leading player in the flying car race, is being taken public via SPAC with a near $2 billion valuation. It’s not the only investment target in this area either.

The Wall Street Journal reports that four major flying car start-ups are being taken public via SPAC this year. All of these companies are betting big on eVTOL.

Blast from the past

Klein Vision has achieved a major feat of precision engineering.

A sports car with folding wings and a James Bond silhouette, AirCar puts a smile on your face. It’s what everyone thought the future was going to look like.

This time the future just arrived a few decades too late.

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Flying Cars