In the past months, China’s Xpeng Aeroht has staged two maiden public flights for its aircraft. The 90-second exercise near Dubai’s iconic Palm Jumeirah island in October was followed by another in Guangzhou, China — landmarks for the startup backed by electric-vehicle maker Xpeng Inc. The EV firm’s billionaire founder He Xiaopeng and other backers are betting large they can overcome regulatory hurdles and capture a slice of what’s been touted as a $1 trillion market that could redefine how we move around.
“The flying car is approaching reality and we think it was the right time to chip in,” Brian Gu, Xpeng’s president, said on the sidelines of the Dubai event, called GITEX. “The industry has produced a lot of technical breakthroughs, from weight reduction to obstacle avoidance and electrification.”
Some would say it’s far too early for that sort of chutzpah. Others buy into it. Aeroht, founded in 2013 by 45-year-old high-school dropout Zhao Deli, was the star exhibitor at GITEX, one of Dubai’s biggest annual trade conferences. The prime minister of the United Arab Emirates stopped by the booth. People lined up to snap selfies with its prototype at its stand, the busiest on the floor.
The hype belies the reality that rival startups have grappled with for years. Companies including Lilium NV, Joby Aviation Inc. and Archer Aviation Inc. wowed investors with multibillion-dollar listings but are now trading near historic lows. Google co-founder Larry Page’s KittyHawk shut in September.
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