The thought of a flying car race may spark memories of a young Anikin from cult film series Star Wars, but it may soon be a reality thanks to a round of seed funding secured by performance electric flying car company Alauda.
It may sound far-fetched, but Alauda founder and CEO of its Airspeeder racing league, Matt Pearson, believes bringing the race series to fruition will do for eVTOL (electric vertical take off and landing) technology, and clean mobility, what the Formula One series did for the internal combustion engine.
“Electric flying cars are a coming reality that will liberate our cities and answer the long-term mobility challenges we face,” says Pearson, who also runs Fleet, an Australian firm that seeks to digitise remote industry by connecting millions of low-power devices in a low earth orbit.
“Nothing drives technology as fast as competition. The F1 racers of the early 20th century possessed a pioneering spirit we are harnessing today to rapidly accelerate progress,” he says.
And it could be closer to home than you think: Alauda, from which has been spawned the Airspeeder racing series, is Australian, and the company’s headquarters are based in South Australia.
But how soon? The flying vehicles in question that will race in the planned flying car race series are known as “eVTOLs”, and Alauda has created three such vehicles to date, the Mk2, Mk3 and Mk4. The first incarnation was shown off in action at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed (see video at the bottom of this article).
The second and third incarnation promise the ability to accommodate a pilot, and according to the company’s website the latter of these will use a swappable 500kWh battery for 15 minutes flying apiece.
A development prototype of the Mk3 has been flown by test pilots from the US Air Force and California-based Martin Aviation in the nearby Mojave Desert, according to Automobilsport.
It is the Mk4, however, that will be used in the racing series “Beta Season” which will reportedly take place first in South Australia.
However, like its well-established and ground-based counterpart the Formula E, which has been temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 crisis, confirmation of first Airspeeder series dates are dependent on overcoming the current global health challenge.
“The MK4, first shown as a concept in the summer of 2019 will be co-developed in the UK and South Australia, with the latter proving the perfect testing ground for both ground control and manned flights as the sport nears its inaugural ‘Beta Season’,” the company’s press release says of the funding.
“This will included public manned test flights that will demonstrate Airspeeder’s potential to be the most exciting sport on the planet. The firm is poised to deliver this flight but exact timings will be dependent on the lifting of restrictions related to the current global health crisis.”
Andrea Gardiner, co-founder of Jelix Ventures, an Australian investor in potentially disruptive technologies and participant in the funding round, said her company is impressed with the creation of a flying car racing league.
“There is a clear global market for Airspeeder and Alauda and the founder has an outstanding track record as a successful entrepreneur. We are proud to support the realisation of his bold vision of the future of mobility.”
Fellow investing firm Saltwater Ventures is also backing the racing series. “We are inspired by Matt Pearson’s vision to drive innovation in a sector that promises to change mobility,” said Len Findlay, founder of Saltwater Ventures in a statement.
“Electric flying car racing will drive awareness of a technology that will bring our communities together and answer the question of sustainable urban transport in the coming decades. We are proud to be a part of bringing the bold promise of electric flying car racing to life.”
The investment represents a significant seed round ahead of an already planned Series A raise, and will be used to create a state-of-the-art technical base in Adelaide, South Australia.
“We are delighted that Jelix and Saltwater are joining us on the journey to seeding the next great mobility revolution. These are proven and professional investors with extraordinary vision and track records backing technology led ventures. To receive backing from investors with such exceptional reputations affirms our ambition,” says Pearson.
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Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.