Chinese eVTOL aircraft maker EHang this week rolled out a public-private partnership aimed at boosting the adoption of advanced air mobility (AAM) in Guangzhou. The agreement, announced on February 6, could include an as-yet-unspecified role for Guangzhou Automobile Group Co (GAC) in the production of the two-seat autonomous EH216-S model. In return, EHang may become involved in GAC's plans to develop a flying car called GOVE.
The partnership in the city where EHang is headquartered also involves the Guangzhou Airport Economic Zone and the Guangzhou Development District Administrative Committee. The latter two partners are to focus on tasks including airspace management, infrastructure development, and developing “low-altitude flight service stations.” Guangzhou officials want to establish the heavily populated metropolitan area as an early adopter of eVTOL air services and to boost the role of local companies in the emerging AAM industry. Last year, the neighboring city of Shenzhen rolled out similar initiatives with EHang, as well as with rival manufacturers AutoFlight and Lilium.
Elected Officials Back eVTOL Growth in Chinese Provinces
Following the recent Local People’s Congress and Political Consultative Conference, officials have determined that efforts to boost the AAM sector should focus on the provinces of Guangdong, Beijing, Anhui, and Shanxi. Overall, the governments of 16 Chinese provinces now have plans for the so-called low-altitude economy.
In December, EHang conducted public demonstration flights with the EH216 in Guangzhou and Hefei (in Guangdong and Anhui provinces, respectively). Following type certification of the aircraft by the Civil Aviation Administration of China in October 2023, it is still working to secure the production certificate it needs to start large-volume series production. Under an airworthiness certificate received late last year, it is already producing small numbers of the aircraft and making some deliveries to early customers, including an operator planning to start sightseeing flights at the Donghu Ecological Tourism and Scenic Area in Wuhan province.
EHang views GAC as an important partner that can bring expertise in smart manufacturing, as well as a well-developed supply chain. It is one of several major Chinese automotive groups that manufacture global car brands including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Toyota. In 2023, GAC sold around 480,000 electric vehicles and is working to expand capacity at its AION “smart ecological factory” to an annual capacity of 400,000 cars.
On February 7, EHang announced a suggested retail price of $410,000 for examples of its EH216 to be sold outside China. The price is 23 percent higher than the $334,000 amount announced for the domestic market last week. However, EHang is not yet actively seeking type certification with Western regulators such as EASA and the FAA, which, in any case, have not confirmed plans to approve passenger-carrying autonomous aircraft.