- Hyundai's aerial mobility company Supernal unveiled a new flying taxi concept at CES 2024.
- The S-A2 has room for a pilot and four passengers and can travel up to 40 miles.
- Here's why we think the electric aircraft could actually make it to production.
Can Hyundai and Supernal Actually Deliver a Flying Taxi?
LAX to Hollywood in less than 10 minutes
Stop trying to make flying taxis happen! It's not going to happen!
Tech critic Regina George wouldn't have been impressed by the unending number of startups that have demonstrated small personal aircraft at previous iterations of CES, but a new concept from Hyundai offshoot Supernal might have changed her mind. The S-A2 is the second of Supernal's electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concepts, released at the halfway point between the S-A1's debut at CES 2020 and the proposed launch of the production version in 2028.
In contrast to a flying car, which doubles as an aircraft and motor vehicle and requires a runway to gain speed to produce lift, an eVTOL doesn't have wheels. They typically rest on wheels or skids, like a helicopter, and electrically powered fans produce lift. They can theoretically take off and land anywhere there's room, making intracity travel possible.
With so many failed startups in the rearview, why do we think a production version of the S-A2 is likelier than most to actually happen? One word: Hyundai. The industry giant is bankrolling the venture, which means Supernal has access to far more resources than a company with a handful of people with big dreams but no ability to execute. That also means it doesn't need to spend vast amounts of time rounding up potential investors — a difficult proposition for go-it-alone independents. We also like Supernal's time frame. Flying cars and eVTOLs are perpetually in a state of being available in just a couple years, but the company made its initial announcement with a much more realistic, nearly decadelong, outlook.
The S-A2's specs aren't mind-boggling, with a maximum range of just 25-40 miles, likely depending on how many of the four passenger seats are filled. Assuming a worst-case scenario with a pilot and four adults, a loaded S-A2 would barely be able to make it from Los Angeles International Airport to Hollywood and back before it needed to recharge. But the go-anywhere capability is certainly enticing, as are the immense time savings from flying above traffic-snarled arteries at speeds up to 120 mph. The success of companies like Blade — which offers helicopter flights from JFK International Airport to Hudson Yards in Manhattan for $195 — proves that there's a market for quick travel in dense urban environments.
After decades of failed personal flying vehicle startups, Supernal may have the deep pockets to make short, go-anywhere aerial travel possible.