Startup’s $700,000 hoverbike targets supercar buyers in Japan

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TOKYO — A Japanese startup, backed by football player Keisuke Honda, hopes to persuade wealthy consumers to swap their supercars for a 77.7 million yen ($680,000) hoverbike that went on sale Tuesday.

Equipped with a conventional motor and four battery-powered motors, the “XTurismo Limited Edition” from Tokyo-based drone startup ALI Technologies promises a 40-minute flight at speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph).

“Until now, the choice has been to move on the ground or scale in the air. We hope to offer a new method of movement,” CEO Daisuke Katano told Reuters.

The black and red hoverbike consists of a motor-like body on top of propellers. The machine rests on landing skids when stationary.

The startup, which includes industrial heavyweights Mitsubishi Electric and Kyocera, demonstrated the bike with a short flight a few feet above the ground at a racetrack near Mount Fuji.

Katano said its use will be limited to such locations in the near term – and will not be allowed to fly over Japan’s busy roads. But the bike could be used by rescue teams to get to hard-to-reach locations, he said.

Strict regulations in Japan, driven by safety concerns, have held back the growth of sectors such as carsharing. Pending rule changes, the bike’s potential uses could be expanded, Katano said.

Funding is flowing to startups from California-based Joby Aviation to Israel’s AIR, which promise to usher in an era of personal air transportation from jetpacks to flying taxis.

Commercial success for ALI Technologies, whose suppliers include motorcycle manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy, would help strengthen Japan’s industrial lead amid a generational shift to new technology such as autonomous and electric vehicles.

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