South Korean carmaker Hyundai unveiled in Vegas, at the start of the Consumer Electronics Show 2024, the second S-A2 concept of its four-passenger ‘flying taxi,’ an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle. The real ‘take-off’ in the market will not be before 2028, as this one is on static display at the parking lot next to the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The S-A2 is a V-tail aircraft with eight tilting rotors, designed to cruise 190 km per hour at a 1 500-foot (450 m) altitude for typical city operation with trips varying from 40 to 65 km. “S-A2 is a true representation of auto meets aero,” says the Belgian Chief Design Officer and Chief Creative Officer at Hyundai Motor Group, Luc Donckerwolcke.
People-mover for cities
The S-A2 is developed by Supernal LLC, Hyundai Motor Group’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) daughter. It builds on the company’s vision concept, S-A1, which debuted at CES 2020, to create a new mode of transportation to get people in urban areas from point A to point B faster.
The huge advantage of this kind of electric VTOL, with eight tilting rotors, is that it operates at 65 dB when taking off and at 45 dB at cruising speed, which can be 100 times more silently than a helicopter. The company claims that the din the S-A2 makes is comparable to your dishwasher’s noise.
Virtual tour above Los Angeles
At the parking lot next to the Las Vegas Convention Center, Hyundai has set up a ‘Vertiport’ as it sees the city airports of the future in the middle of the city. Visitors can take a simulated flight above the city of Los Angeles with the S-A2.
“Quiet electric flights will enable vertiports to be in cities, airports, and elsewhere for seamless integration with existing transit options,” the company claims. “Combined with air traffic control improvements and advanced micro-weather forecasting, S-A2 and vertiports will facilitate mobility far beyond what existing and projected ground infrastructure can deliver.”
But Hyundai isn’t the only carmaker looking to the skies to expand its horizon. Others might already be ahead in the race for electric air taxis, like Californian electric air taxi developer Archer Aviation, which has already secured airworthiness certification from the FAA to start the homologation testing for its Midnight eVTOL air taxi.
To be built by Stellantis
The Midnight eVTOL is a fully battery-electric airplane, seating four passengers and a pilot, that can take off and land vertically due to 12 electric rotors, six for lifting at the back of the wings and six that can tilt forward to fly up to 240 km/hour. It has a range of 160 km but is intended for 20 to 30 km short hops between the city and the airport, with as little as 10 minutes of charging between flights.
Archer intends to manufacture the Midnight at its facility in Covington, Georgia, with the French-Italian-American carmaker group Stellantis bringing in its manufacturing know-how. Stellantis will act as its exclusive contract manufacturer. The partnership goes back to early 2021, with Fiat-Chrysler (FCA), later merging with French PSA into Stellantis Group.
Toyota and Joby Aviation
In 2020, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota invested 394 million dollars in Joby Aviation, an American start-up that wants to make flying taxis. Joby Aviation, located in Santa Cruz, CA, is the aviation technology subsidiary of camera equipment manufacturer Joby.
It previously collaborated with NASA on the experimental electric aircraft project, X-57 Maxwell, and is now developing its four-passenger eVTOL. Joby became the first eVTOL company to receive airworthiness approval from the US Air Force in December 2020. In 2023, it made its first delivery to the Air Force as part of a $131 million contract.
In June last year, it launched production at the Pilot Production Plant in Marina, CA, with the first aircraft rolling off the line to begin flight testing. It announced plans to build its first scaled production site in Dayton, Ohio, capable of delivering up to 500 aircraft per year when fully developed.
Solvay and British Vertical Aerospace
Belgian materials and chemical multinational Solvay will deliver lightweight aerospace materials and technology for British Vertical Aerospace’s VA-1X air taxi. The latter is a small, fully electric airplane for five people, including the pilot, that aims to get licensed for commercial use by 2024.
Vertical Aerospace claimed before it was set to be the world’s first certified winged all-electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Once airborne, it will have an estimated range of 100 miles (160 km) at a cruising speed of 150 mph (240 km/h).