Terrafugia Owner Moves Transition Flying Car Program to China
Automotive group Zhejiang Geely will now seek certification for the flying car through the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
Aerofugia is the former Terrafugia business that was relocated from the U.S. to China in 2021 by its majority shareholder, the automotive group Zhejiang Geely. In addition to a flying car called the Transition, the company has been developing an eVTOL aircraft called the TF-2. However, in January 2023, it released photos showing a new prototype designated at the AE200 X01 making what was reported by eFlight Journal to be its first hover flight. The all-electric design features eight sets of propellers, of which the front four tilt forward during cruise flight. According to a Chinese language press release and reports in e-Flight Journal, in November 2022 Aerofugia applied to the Civil Aviation Administration of China to begin the type certification and final assembly for the first prototype was completed the next month.
Back in 2018, Terrafugia had abandoned an earlier plan to develop the TF-2 as a vectored-thrust tiltrotor design. Its more plans called for a "lift and cruise" design, which features four vertical propellers and a pusher prop at the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft is intended to operate in conjunction with a ground vehicle from which pods carrying cargo or up to four passengers would be loaded and offloaded.
In January 2020, Geely made an internal announcement about the specifications for a new, smaller, model called TF-2A and this was leaked via social media. The company declined to comment on the information released, but a spokesman did confirm that Terrafugia's China division is leading the development of an eVTOL product and has flown a sub-scale model of the TF-2A.
In January 2021, Terrafugia announced that it has received a light sport certificate of airworthiness for the Transition from the FAA, clearing it for initial flight operations. The company is now focusing on getting U.S. approval for the vehicle to be driven on public roads.
However, in February 2021, Zhejiang Geely confirmed that it would transfer the Transition program to China, and would seek type certification through the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The company cut up to 100 jobs at its U.S. site but will retain a smaller team to pursue "aviation-related opportunities." Since this move, next to nothing has been heard about the future of this program, and it would appear that Geely is prioritizing other work in the advanced air mobility sector, such as its partnership with Volocopter.
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Terrafugia was formed back in 2006. Its aviation plans appeared to gather some fresh impetus in November 2017 when China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group acquired the U.S. company. Terrafugia, which was transferred to China in 2021, was working on both a flying car and an eVTOL vehicle called the VF-2. Geely subsequently renamed its advanced air mobility division Aerofugia and went largely radio-silent over its plans. It has been involved in a partnership with German eVTOL developer Volocopter.
Then, in January 2023 news broke that a new design called the AE200 X1 had made a first hover flight. According to a Chinese language press release and reports in e-Flight Journal, in November 2022 Aerofugia applied to the Civil Aviation Administration of China to begin the type certification and final assembly for the first prototype was completed the next month. While the timeline for the program still remains unclear, Geely's deep pockets an apparent serious intent on entering the aviation sector could gain momentum.
In early January 2020, a social media leak from within Terrafugia's China division revealed that the company (subsequently renamed Aerofugia) had flown a sub-scale model of the TF-2A. This was confirmed by the company, which refused to confirm---but did not deny---leaked specifications and performance details for what appears to be a smaller version of the TF-2 model.
The design featured eight vertical lift propellers and a single rear pusherprop. Like the larger TF-2 model, the 2A features a high wing, but it also has a twin-boom tail section.