Honda’s aerospace division might be small, but with more than 170 HA-420 HondaJet units in service around the world, it can be described as anything but fruitless. The aircraft is one of the best performers in its class with a cruising speed of 422 knots (782km/h) and a service ceiling of 43,000ft. But with each one starting at $5.3 million (P270 million), it’s not exactly as affordable as Honda’s other signature products (like the Civic).
The company now wants commuters to experience the magic of flight, and it will do that with the eVTOL. The name simply stands for “electric vertical takeoff and landing,” meaning the aircraft will behave much like a helicopter but with an electrified propulsion system. But unlike the concept flying taxis being developed by Toyota and Hyundai, the eVTOL has one trick up its sleeve.
It will use a hybrid power unit that combines a gas turbine engine with electric motors. The former will likely be based on the core of the GE Honda HF120 turbofan used on the HondaJet. This will power a generator that provides energy to the electric motors driving several propellers. The propeller arrangement itself is also unique as there are eight lift props and two ducted pusher fans.
Honda believes that the use of a gas turbine engine will offer superior range compared to fully electric air taxis. The company claims a hybrid endurance of 400km. Should the jet engine fail, it can operate in electric mode for 100km. For comparison, the all-electric Toyota-Joby Aviation concept has a reported range of just 241km.
Honda did not mention anything about the eVTOL’s autonomy, so it is probably safe to assume that there will be an onboard pilot. What it did say is that the aircraft will be part of a “mobility ecosystem” that includes self-driving electric shuttles that the brand’s automobile division is currently developing.