Air taxis and flying cars have been making a splash at CES for years now, but it’s encouraging to see a big company like Hyundai taking it seriously and moving forward with designs. I thought it was the most interesting thing I saw at CES this year.
The Supernal air taxi is an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL. The S-A2 is a second-generation design.South Korea’s Hyundai unveiled its first S-A1 eVTOL program at CES in January 2020.
The aircraft will take four passengers. It can cruise at 120 miles per hour and it has eight rotors that can rotaet. It has four in the front of the wing and four in back to balance itself in a vertical take off. The engines will be quiet at 45 decibels during flight and 65 during take off or landing. That’s as quiet as a dishwasher. It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour during takeoff.
This year, the company showed off a VertiPort, or a concept for the places in Los angeles where you could catch an air taxi. As a division of Hyundai Motor Group, the company is not just developing an aircraft. It’s creating a mobility solution. Neil Marshall, head of manufacturing and program management at Supernal, told me it’s creating a mobility solution. The all-electric air taxi will have a range of 25 miles to 40 miles, with each trip taking just minutes instead of an hour in a car.
“It’s a new form of taxi, a new form of mobility,” Marshall said.
The trips will be short hops to places like downtown Los Angeles or Woodland Hills, long enough to skirt traffic in a 40-minute ride, but likely needing a ride-sharing solution to complete the last mile from the VertiPort to the rider’s final destination.
Rather than make a flying car, Marshall thinks the rideshare car and the air taxi make for a better solution for mobility given the infrastructure that’s already in place. At first, you’ll make reservations for air taxis. But at some point you’ll just be able to go and catch the flights that are maybe 10 or 20 minutes apart.
Marshall also showed off the proposed control room where air taxi traffic would be monitored and managed.
The air taxis need an air traffic solution, and they have to stay out of commercial air space for airports like LAX. So they will follow the routes of roads, making it easy to stay on course and out of the way of other air taxis. A flight from Universal Studios to Woodland Hills could take 38 minutes, flying over the roads. But it could take more than an hour at peak times in a car.
Supernal is talking to the FAA and NASA about how to establish the routes properly. The air taxis will have to share the air with devices like drones. Marshall ultimately believes an air traffic control system that is not dependent on human controllers will be the best solution.
“It’s not just about developing an aircraft,” Marshall said. “It’s about developing a mobility solution. We’re looking at the first mile and the last mile.”
Air taxis going one way will be able to fly at one elevation and those going another could fly at a different elevation. The elevation will likely be in the 1,500 feet range.
It’s not clear how much each ride will cost yet. But Marshall said it could start service as early as 2028.
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