A decade or two ago, or at least before the year 2000, when people whimsically thought about how living in the future would be like, there was one near-constant element that gets brought up among the many conveniences of tomorrow: flying cars. Aside from hover-boards, they’re perhaps the most prevalent icon of a really technologically advanced future world. The subject has been brought up in media like in the “Back to the Future” series (second movie), and indeed several groups and companies in real life have dabbled with the concept, to little productive results. Now, 17 years into the 21st Century, the buzz seems to be on again about flying cars after one new test unit made a successful test flight in Germany this month.
Forbes has report of two companies unveiling their concept flying cars at the Top Marques Show in Monaco, normally reserved for super-expensive yet still ground-bound luxury automobiles. But AeroMobil from Slovakia and Pal-V from the Netherlands have secured their places here thanks to perhaps the hefty asking prices for their unorthodox models. Both are nominally road vehicles that have aerodynamic trappings and a conversion system that transform them into flying aircraft, but with different methods.
AeroMobil’s (unnamed) flying car model is a four-wheeled two-seat roadster with folding wings that extend in order to fly (though it needs a long runway for takeoff). In the air it can go up to 260 kilometers per hour with a max range of 750 km on a hybrid engine, and priced anywhere from $1.2 to $1.6 million, depending on requested specs. Their first mass-produced edition runs only 500 units, with commercialization planned for should it pass certification in 2020.
Meanwhile, Pal-V’s own design, the Liberty, is a two-seater car on three wheels, but where AeroMobil’s vehicle has wings and flies like a plane the Liberty has a foldup rotor and takes off vertically, like a helicopter, with equal max road and air speed of 160 kilometers per hour. Its 27-gallon gas tank is enough for either 220 miles of flight or 750 miles of road travel. It’s also relatively cheaper at $399,000 to $599,000.
Finally there’s the electrically powered Lithium jet, the prototype of which did just fly in Munich early this April. It’s impressive enough to carry up to five people, but the next step in its development is finding an electric battery that can extend its road and flight time.
One stumbling block in the real world regarding flying cars has been the lack of regulations for them in the transportation departments and ministries of most countries, along with the necessity of requiring a pilot’s license as well for a driver who wants to go into the air. One loophole being pursued in this endeavor is the development of self-piloting flying cars, to eliminate the need for their passengers to be trained and licensed pilots. But these questions are, again, for the future.
Photo courtesy of News Week, Slash Gear