Honda goes from jets to intra-city multirotors

While quite a few automakers have a history with aviation like (e.g. BMW), less than a handful have actually fielded any modern airplanes or aircraft in the last few years. Subaru is one; they still have quite a few collaborations in the airline and helicopter business. Rolls-Royce does make commercial jet engines, but that's a separate business from the motor car division (which is under BMW).

Honda is the only one (as far as we know) that is actively selling their own aircraft: the business plane called the HondaJet. But they seem to be aiming for more, as they have announced that they are making a significant investment in aviation beyond the HondaJet.

Honda calls it the eVTOL, and to understand it you just have to look at the name: the E stands for electric, while the VTOL stands for vertical take off and landing.

Honda eVTOL image

The concept images definitely look the part, as the eVTOL resembles a multi-rotor drone with 8 propellers for lift mounted on dual nacelles and 2 ducted fans for forward propulsion. The eVTOL also has a tail mounted main wing with vertical stabilizers.

The eVTOL is of course scaled up to have a fuselage big enough for passengers and a flight crew. What's curious about the eVTOL is that Honda isn't trying to make it look like a car. While it does have three wheels, they look to be more like aircraft landing gear for taxiing around an airfield rather than the larger wheels of a car.

Honda eVTOL image

The key to the eVTOL is the power system: Honda says they envision it to have a gas turbine engine combined with an electric system comprised of multiple motors. It's effectively a hybrid and should have a fraction of the fuel consumption compared to a similar gas-powered vehicle.

A hybrid system would be the biggest advantage according to Honda because the vehicle will be able to lift off without making too much noise. That means they shouldn't have problems taking off and landing in urban areas as the neighbors won't complain about the noise (apart from the wind being pushed around). Honda says the vehicle will have limited range, so they will be focusing on air transport within a city only for the eVTOL.

Honda eVTOL image

The announcement of the eVTOL is part of an initiative by Honda to push for more technologies that they say “will bring about new value for people by expanding the potential of mobility into the 3rd dimension, then the 4th dimension which defies the constraints of time and space, and ultimately into outer space.”

Honda wants to fly some more with eVTOL image

Yes, they really said space: Honda says they will also get involved in space travel, particularly with renewable energy sources, robotics (they're working on a robot arm), and more. But for now, maybe it's good that Honda is aiming for more, especially after the disappointing pullout from Formula One in what could be a potentially world championship winning season.