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Japan launches flying cars into reality

What we once thought was a fantasy has been made a reality once more. Tokyo has made significant strides in air mobility, having a flying car take to the skies over its bustling metropolis for the first time . After the scrapping of the air taxi services for the 2025 Osaka World Expo and the Paris Olympic Games, this symbolises a new hope for the future of flying cars. Notably, this was the same company that launched Japan’s first flying car back in March 2023, further cementing its pioneering role in this industry.  In this article, we will take you through Japan’s industry leaders and their mobility innovations. 

Source: Hexa flying car at SusHiTech Tokyo

But what is a flying car? A flying car, also known as a eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) , is a type of vehicle that can function both as a road vehicle and as an aircraft. Unlike helicopters, flying cars incorporate wheels similar to those of conventional cars, which generate rotary motion, allowing the vehicle to move on the ground like a regular car. These innovative vehicles are powered by electricity, offering a greener alternative to traditional aircraft. Flying cars are designed to be easier to operate than helicopters and are primarily intended for shorter distance commuting, making them a practical solution for urban air mobility. The global eVTOL aircraft market was valued at USD 10.46 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to USD 52 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.43% from 2023 to 2030.

One of the challenges delaying mass production in Japan is due to their classification as aircraft under aviation law. This requires operators to obtain an airworthiness certificate for each vehicle and a "type certificate" for each design before production can move forward. Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) are actively developing a roadmap for the practical use and social implementation of eVTOL technologies. The integration of flying cars into urban environments aims to reduce traffic congestion, lower carbon emissions, and offer a more efficient mode of transportation. 

Key Players in Japan’s eVTOL Market 

Marubeni’s HEXA

Marubeni Corporation is at the forefront of eVTOL development with HEXA, created by U.S.-based LIFT Aircraft Inc. HEXA is a single-passenger eVTOL designed for short-haul travel and tourism. It completed its first piloted demonstration flight in Japan at the Osaka Castle Baseball Field and recently took to the skies in Tokyo, showcasing vertical and circular flight capabilities. HEXA's progress makes it one of the strongest developments to watch. 

Source: HEXA first launch at Osaka Castle

SkyDrive and Suzuki

SkyDrive Inc., a startup founded by former Toyota engineer Fukuzawa Tomohiro, has partnered with Suzuki Motor Corporation to produce eVTOL aircraft. SkyDrive's SD-03 model successfully completed its first manned test flight in 2020. The company plans to start manufacturing in 2024, with a production capacity of up to 100 eVTOLs annually. SkyDrive aims to showcase its technology at the 2025 Osaka World Expo, demonstrating the potential of eVTOL for urban mobility.

Source: Skydrive and Suzuki's eVTOL

University of Tokyo Start-up Tetra Aviation

Tetra Aviation is developing the Mk-3, a fully electric VTOL aircraft designed for personal use and competitions like Boeing's GoFly. The Mk-3 features a unique design with four ducted fans and fixed wings. The company continues to develop this model and works closely with regulators in Japan and the U.S. to establish legislation for eVTOLs, aiming to enhance mobility options and enrich people's lives.

Source: Tetra's Mk-3

Honda Motor Co.

Honda Motor Co. is developing eVTOL technology to make air mobility more accessible for everyday use, including commuting. This initiative reflects Honda's commitment to enhancing mobility by integrating land, air, and sea transportation. By connecting these different modes of travel, Honda aims to provide greater value in transportation, significantly reduce travel time, and make journeys more comfortable. Their vision is to make the sky more accessible and create a seamless, three-dimensional mobility experience.

Source: Honda's eVTOL

Toyota Motor Corp. and Joby Aviation

Toyota Motor Corporation has a longstanding partnership with U.S.-based Joby Aviation. Together, they are working on mass-producing eVTOL aircraft. Joby, which counts Toyota as its largest external shareholder with an investment of around $400 million, has developed an eVTOL with zero operating emissions, vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, and a top speed of 200 mph. This collaboration aims to revolutionise urban air mobility with efficient and sustainable transportation solutions.

Source: Toyota Motor Corp. and Joby Aviation’s eVTOL

As the country continues to innovate and invest in eVTOL technology, the vision of a future where flying cars are a common sight is becoming increasingly tangible. This advancement promises not only to revolutionise transportation but also to address critical urban challenges, making our cities more efficient and sustainable.

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Asha Mistry


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