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VivaTech 2023: From air scooters to tiny cars, these 5 companies are rethinking how we travel

These companies are rethinking mobility at VivaTech
These companies are rethinking mobility at VivaTech Copyright Luke Hurst/Euronews Next
Copyright Luke Hurst/Euronews Next
By Luke Hurst
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Mobility is a key theme at VivaTech in Paris - and there is no shortage of innovative companies vying to change the future of travel for people and things.

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Mobility is one of the key themes of VivaTech this year, with many start-ups and established players showcasing their innovative solutions to some of our biggest transport challenges.

How will we be moving people and goods on roads, water, and in the air in the near future? From air scooters, to tiny electric cars with removable batteries, here are some of the most interesting - and wackiest - mobility ideas on show in Paris.

Take to the skies in an air scooter

Zipping around on scooters is a popular form of transport in Europe. French company Zapata is taking the concept to the skies with an “air scooter,” or personal flying machine. It looks like something from the future, but whether it’s actually a practical concept is up for debate.

Speaking to Euronews Next, Zapata’s community manager Beatriz Esteban Cara said that people will be able to have a go at flying the scooters in flight centres in the US next year - no pilot’s licence necessary, and no buildings or people around to worry about in the vicinity. 

Luke Hurst/Euronews Next
Zapata's air scooter will be available to fly at specific locations in the USLuke Hurst/Euronews Next

They are safe, she assured, as if anything goes wrong, the onboard computers will automatically guide the scooter safely back to earth.

What does the company see them being used for? At the moment, Zapata plans to sell the aircraft to companies that want to open their own flight centres to offer customers recreational flight experiences so it's unlikely you’ll be seeing these scooters flying overhead in European cities any time soon.

Cycle on water

We’ve had scooters in the air, now how about bicycles on the water? Mantafoil’s Hydrofoiler SL3 is aiming to be the pedalo of the future, “a surreal experience free from trails and traffic,” according to the company.

Typically, hydrofoil crafts have a foil or wing that sits under the water and lifts them off the water’s surface as it increases its speed. 

Mantafoil
Mantafoil’s Hydrofoiler SL3 in actionMantafoil

As flying above the water’s surface requires a lot of power, Mantafoil’s prototype combines your pedal power with an electric assist motor so users can enjoy rides of up to four and a half hours on the surface - the longest duration of any e-foil product on the market today.

The New Zealand-based company’s founder has ambitions for foil bike racing to one day be an Olympic sport. For now, they are available to buy at selected retailers.

Deliveries in a helicopter-aeroplane hybrid

Apeleon is the company behind a vertical take-off and landing drone (VTOL) that incorporates the advantages of both a helicopter and a plane. The Austrian company is already working with customers in its home country, developing specific routes that the drone could take to deliver lightweight packages. 

Luke Hurst/Euronews Next
Apeleon's delivery drone on display at VivaTechLuke Hurst/Euronews Next

The proposed use cases of the drone are for tasks like delivering blood or other medical supplies at speed to hospitals. As it doesn’t require much of an aerial infrastructure such as runways, the company is also exploring its potential use in remote areas with rough terrain on the African continent.

Their prototype aircraft was on display at VivaTech, and the company demonstrated how the nose of the aircraft opens up to reveal the space for the payload. Fully electric, the drone can travel distances up to 150 km, at a cruising speed of 100 km/h. 

Tiny car takeover

Finding a charging point is still a bit of a challenge for electric car owners in many regions, and e-charging is a hot topic at VivaTech this year.

One company thinks it has the solution though. The Tiny Car is - as the name suggests - a smart-car sized electric car, with removable batteries that can be charged at home.

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Owners will be able to buy a rack of four batteries to ensure they always have a backup, and each battery gives around 15 km of journey distance. 

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Tiny Car's tiny carLuke Hurst/Euronews Next

A solar-panel roof can give an extra boost on sunny days too. The car is still in development, but the prototype at VivaTech showed off its wooden lightweight bodywork and bare bones construction.

Tiny - the French company behind the vehicle - plans to sell the little city runabout for around €9,000.  

The Willy Wonka-style urban elevator

One of the more outlandish prototypes on show was Italdesign’s Climb-E which had attendees queueing up for pretend journeys in VR up the skyscrapers of futuristic cities.

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Luke Hurst/Euronews Next
The Climb-E was a popular experience at VivaTechLuke Hurst/Euronews Next

Designed for horizontal and vertical mobility, the “autonomous transportation concept” is primarily intended for private use, but the company believes it could also be used to deliver services to consumers “through its ability to integrate into next-gen and future civil and residential structures”.

A company rep said that includes things like bringing restaurants to your door, hundreds of feet up in a tower.

It isn’t entirely clear how this would work, or what cities exist that could accommodate this type of concept. Ultimately, the idea is to transform the “traditionally motionless urban face of buildings into a changeable, moving system,” the Italian company says.

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