Have You Ever Wanted a Flying Car? (Video)

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Introducing TF-X: Terrafugia’s Vision for the Future of Personal Transportation

Let’s say that you’re traveling on the freeway to a business meeting and your GPS tells you that the road in front of you has just become impassable. There is an alternate route available; however, it adds an hour and a half to your journey. You will miss your meeting. This could be a nightmare. It seems there is an answer being developed. It is a hybrid car that transitions into an airplane.

flying_car_TF_X Terrafugia_screenshot_from_video

It’s called the TF-X: Terrafugia (which is Latin for “escape the earth”) and is being created in Woburn, Massachusetts by a team of award-winning MIT-trained aerospace engineers. Check out it’s range.

The car/craft uses electric power and gasoline (personally, I would like to see it use more electric power) to reach your destination. Since we’ve learned that traveling the same distance by air that you can cover on the ground produces less global warming pollution, we can still be on the ecological side of transportation and fulfill our dreams of soaring in the clouds.

Building on its experience with the Transition® program, Terrafugia has begun feasibility studies of a four-seat, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) plug-in hybrid-electric flying car, the TF-X™. Incorporating state-of-the-art technology in intelligent systems, fly-by-wire controls, and currently available technology, the TF-X™ could further increase the level of safety, simplicity, and convenience of personal aviation.

“We are passionate about continuing to lead the creation of a flying car industry and are dedicating resources to lay the foundations for our vision of personal transportation,” says Terrafugia CEO/CTO Carl Dietrich.

flying car
Image Credits: Terrafugia

Here’s more from a recent Terrafugia press release:

Terrafugia’s design team is excited to be looking ahead to TF-X™ development activities as the Transition® program shifts from research and development to certification, production, and customer support activities.  The Transition® serves as a Proof of Process for TF-X™ development and commercialization through the many technical, regulatory, and usage challenges it has overcome.

From the founding of Terrafugia back in 2006, the company in a separate press release says it “has been dedicated to the creation of practical flying cars — vehicles that will bring a new dimension of freedom to the world while simultaneously increasing the level of safety and convenience of personal transportation.”

This is not a short-term endeavor. Changes in modes of transportation typically take decades to accomplish, and the movement of society into the air is expected to be similar. Terrafugia has taken a long term approach to this change. We are starting inside the existing general aviation industry where we intend to gradually lower the barriers to entry while simultaneously increasing the level of safety of personal aviation.

Going on:

Preliminary conversations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the TF-X™ concept have demonstrated their willingness to consider innovative technologies and regulatory solutions that are in the public interest and enhance the level of safety of personal aviation. Terrafugia is excited to be nearing production of the Transition® and continuing to push the envelope of personal transportation in a flying car. Dietrich adds, “Terrafugia is about increasing the level of safety, simplicity, and convenience of aviation.  TF-X™ is an opportunity to provide the world with a new dimension of personal freedom!”

A person viewing the test flight of the flying car said it best: “It’s the Jetsons, it really is.” With Solar Impulse, the solar airplane flying into aviation history, and Terrafugia TF-X coming close to production, the future of our personal transportation appears to be more ecologically sound and very exciting.

More information about Terrafugia is available at www.DrivenToFly.com

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Amber Archangel

-- I am an artist, painter, writer, interior designer, graphic designer, and constant student of many studies. Living with respect for the environment close at hand, the food chain, natural remedies for healing the earth, people and animals is a life-long expression and commitment. As half of a home-building team, I helped design and build harmonious, sustainable and net-zero homes that incorporate clean air systems, passive and active solar energy as well as rainwater collection systems. Private aviation stirs a special appeal, I would love to fly in the solar airplane and install a wind turbine in my yard. I am a peace-loving, courageous soul, and I am passionate about contributing to the clean energy revolution. I formerly designed and managed a clean energy website, 1Sun4All.com.

Amber Archangel has 195 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Archangel

11 thoughts on “Have You Ever Wanted a Flying Car? (Video)

  • I know Cleantech has a bias, but I thought they were good on the basic facts, and on not being fooled TOO easily by hype. But this article is shameful! Please do a little homework. This flying car won’t be more successful than any of the last score of attempts. For example, look into the history of the Moller flying car (http://www.downside.com/scams/moller/). Terafugia is just one more investor-fleecing scam.
    How can anyone be so naive as to think “Oh, the reason we don’t have flying cars is that nobody thought of it before!”? Misguided dreamers have been trying to design one for nearly a century, but at the very best they will never produce a machine that is more than a mediocre airplane and a mediocre car at the same time. More likely a barely road-worthy car and a really crap airplane.
    That’s because such a device is physically impossible, no matter what the technology. Fundamental design constraints will always be in conflict. Ever seen a truly excellent highway motorcycle that is also an excellent dirtbike? Or a moving van that’s a good commuter vehicle? No! It can’t be done. A flying car is akin to a fine carving knife that’s also a wood-splitting axe. One device COULD do both, but not very well.
    Please leave this kind of rubbish for the cover of Popular Mechanics, where it has and evermore shall appear every 2-3 years.

  • I think the volocopter has much more promise http://www.e-volo.com/ (Its not a car) I also don’t see how the TF-X car can be either cheap convenient or green. If Li-air or similar can be made to work, then flying to and from work in a volocopter could help reduce congestion in cities of around 1 million. (I am sure the tube is still more efficient for packing ppl in) You would want autopilot of course, but that would be easier than for a self driving car, and being able to stop and hover is a really big deal for air traffic control.

    Of course you wouldn’t want the completely unnecessary situation of individual ownership, the same copter could take multiple trips to and from work on the same day, greatly spreading the probably high cost to buy one around many ppl. Even if the richest 10% used it, thats still less traffic on the ground.

    • This is yet another scam to separate the credulous from their cash. Helicopters are already among the least efficient aircraft, and that’s in their most efficient form – with a minimum number of long, thin rotor blades. This supposed volocopter would only make inefficient even less efficient. 18 little rotors in a big draggy ring arrangement? Hahaha! Theoretically a Li-air battery could break even with gasoline in energy density, but on cost? I’m not holding my breath for either one.

      • Its not mostly efficiency that stops us using helicopters instead of cars, its cost, size, difficulty in flying them. If you can get a battery powered vehicle to let you travel even 20k’s distance as the crow flies above rush hour traffic, then many people are going to want that. Smaller blades are cheaper to manufacture as there is less stress on them, and a multi-blade aircraft is much more stable. Smaller quadrotors are not expensive, I see now reason why a larger one should be prohibitively so.

        Yes it may take more energy than a car on the ground, but if it removes that car from gridlock everyone else gets home a little faster. Until you know the mass production cost to make one, and the minimum energy to take 2 passengers 20k or so, then you can’t draw that conclusion.

        • I’m not sure how you decided it’s “mostly” not efficiency that stops wide adoption of helicopters, but simply those other show-stoppers. Their low fuel efficiency remains a fact – that won’t be cured by adding lots of rotors. Smaller blades are cheaper to build, but 18 times as many of them, along with 18 motors and/or drivetrains? And that elaborate, fanciful, drag-inducing structure to hold them? Not so clear.
          By “smaller quadrotors not expensive,” you refer to micro-scale models and small drones, where no one much cares about energy efficiency, range, or payload beyond a miniature videocam.
          Aerodynamic, mechanical, and control systems often don’t scale up readily. E.g., at model scale it’s easy to change thrust on one or two rotors by changing voltage to the motors. At scale, you either need variable pitch (heavy, costly, complicated mechanism) or variable RPM (sluggish response). Also, review the history of full-scale quadrotors. And re Terrafugia, the U.S. V-22 Osprey cost, safety, & performance record is cautionary.
          “If we can get a battery-powered aircraft…” Sure. Nice idea. But let’s see the concept proven with an EV Cessna equivalent first. My bet is it won’t happen anytime soon.
          Other little issues routinely ignored by aerocar proponent/con artists: 1) Millions of new licensed, qualified pilots? Really? 2) Air traffic. And don’t tell me that will be solved soon with autopilots and autocommunication. We’re not even close. 3) In which urban/surbaban areas on this planet would it be legal to take off or land in one’s backyard or driveway? Noise, downwash, hazards to bystanders? We have sensible regulations on noise and aircraft ground clearance over populated areas. Those will suddenly evaporate?

          • OK you can have a go at estimating the energy and cost.

            The weight they give is 450Kg, with 20 min flying time at present, with a max speed of 100kph. If we assume the 20 mins is at 70kph, thats a 23k range (further than many peoples trip to work in the morning)

            Of the 450kg, say 150kg is battery, with an energy density of 160Wh/KG. Thats a 24KWh battery. Its about 1KWh per kilometer travelled, and thats for 2 people.

            In my city it costs about $2.50 per person for a 10k bus trip to or from town.

            The energy cost from rooftop solar at say 15c/KWh for 2 people would be 10KW*15c = $1.50 vs $5 for 2 people in the bus. Now thats a rough estimate, but the costs clearly aren’t prohibitive.

            I think you are quite off the mark about air traffic. Making an autopilot system for such vehicles would be much easier than making a self-driving car and we already have self driving cars. There are no pedestrians, road works, slippery roads, or unpredictable drivers in the sky. Make every vehicle autopilot and fly at less than 100m high in areas where fixed wing aircraft don’t fly and there are no mixing issues. In the vast majority of my city there is no air traffic <100m at present. For the air traffic system, just make the copters follow the roads, but at 10m, 20m, 30m -100m intervals directly above them in the sky. You also don't need to have head on traffic. 10m can be northbound, 20 southbound, 30m east, 40m west etc. To change direction, you (autopilot) pull over, change altitude then pull into the appropriate lane again. Current radar can easily pick up a vehicle of that size 1-20 seconds ahead even in the thickest fog. You get into the copter, tell it your route, it accepts it then takes you there. So there is no landing in someone elses driveway, but flying from one parking space to another. It could land on your lawn quite happily too. Flying in already noisy rush hour when it is most needed I don't think is going to add to the noise pollution that much either. Multi rotor craft would be quieter than helicopters because each blade is not breaking the sound barrier unlike a helicopter.

          • If you believe the performance hype from the people trying to sell these vaporplanes, I don’t have much more to say about that. Quoting “with 20 min flying time at present,” is a good example.

            Serious people in the real aviation industry aren’t even fantasizing about electric aircraft in the foreseeable future. Liquid carbon-based fuels are the only real choice. If/when batteries become practical for flight, we’ll start seeing them in conventional aircraft, but that’s not even in the works. Gasoline still has about 13x the delivered work energy density of the best practical batteries.

            I don’t dispute your calculations, but when you account for the batteries and two people including their briefcases and shoes, you’re only left with 130-140 kg of empty aircraft. Really? Sounds extremely optimistic.

            Comparing electricity with bus fare is misleading at best. What about the cost of the aircraft? The simplest, most comparable light airplane, a Cessna 150, would sell for about $200k now if it were still in production. What reason is there to believe that a hightech aerocar or quadrotor would sell for less?

            Self-driving cars notwithstanding, you’re in fantasyland with your autopilot system. For good reasons, the aviation world is careful and conservative about this kind of thing, and about pilot qualifications, even for arguably self-flying airliners. There are no slippery roads in the sky, but there is a little thing called weather, and good, experienced human judgement is still a necessity.

            I don’t know which city you live in, but in the U.S. there’s a good reason you wouldn’t see air traffic below 100m: the legal minimum for ALL aircraft (quadcopters and aerocars not excepted) is 300m! Above the highest obstacle within 600m. At all times (see federal regulations excerpt below).

            Most urban/suburban areas qualify as “congested” under these regs. Aside from any traffic implications, this means that you are NOT allowed to land in your or your neighbor’s driveway or lawn. Or in some convenient local parking lot. Period. Legal airports only. Of course there are exceptions for qualified helipads on many highrise buildings, but those are relatively few, and they’re not for the use of your imaginary everyday air commuter.

            From U.S. federal regulations:
            § 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

            Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

            (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

            (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

            (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

          • Well for a start like >95% of the world I don’t live in the USA, but even if we have similar rules, quoting current rules is like quoting the rule that when cars where first invented, someone had to walk in front with a flag to argue that cars would never take off. Its clear though that you won’t believe it can be done until it actually happens so there is little point saying more

          • I get it that the USA doesn’t comprise the whole world, and nothing I wrote was meant to imply otherwise. Like it or not, though, the USA has been a world leader in aviation, and it has set the example in many ways, including safety practices and regulations. Go ahead, look up minimum ground clearances in your country – I bet they won’t differ much from ours.

            Your comparison with Red Flag Laws, which were repealed before 1900 (yes, in the USA, but in the UK as well, I believe), is a silly red herring. Aircraft altitude minimums were established many decades ago, and if anything they’ve become more strict rather than less. Read the actual regs. Among them is one that requires staying within gliding range of a safe place to at least crash-land without harming bystanders. Since helicopters of whatever stripe get a considerably steeper glide than fixed-wing craft, that restriction typically means they should fly higher over populated areas. Of course rules can change, but give me a good reason for changing these. So that tens of thousands of unskilled air commuters can swarm the skies? Sorry, no. Not happening.

            It’s not even close that I don’t believe something can happen until it does. I’m working on a major bioenergy project right now that is far from certain to come to fruition. But there’s a difference between optimism and believing in magic snake oil, which is what these Terrafuggia guys, and your quadcopter guys, are selling. If you want to follow your belief with investment money, go ahead. But when you come up empty-handed, don’t say you weren’t warned.

  • “Since we’ve learned that traveling the same distance by air that you can cover on the ground produces less global warming pollution, we can still be on the ecological side of transportation and fulfill our dreams of soaring in the clouds.”

    What rubbish (sorry cleantechnica, you should do better!)

    The comparison was made between a car (single occupant private vehicle) and common airflight, which is a form of public transport with 100’s sharing the same vehicle. To extrapolate that into the environmental impact of a single occupant flying vehicle is impossible and in fact misleading to the readers of CleanTechnica.

    The second thing that this assertion totally ignores is the increase of VMT because of this much faster, congestion proof vehicle. So even if the energy use per km is the same, people suddenly find they can cover much larger distances in the same time. And they will take advantage of that, increasing the total amount of fossil fuels burnt.

    The third thing that is ignored is that air flight is much harder to electrify than ground transport. So while cars will increasingly travel on electricity (from clean sources), this thing will need hydrocarbons for the foreseeable future. Guess where those hydrocarbons will have to come from? Think Canada, think Keystone XL.

    Please do not go down the path of publishing this kind of stuff that has nothing to do with clean neither with technica.

  • FlyingHybrids.com In a Hybrid rocket motor, the fuel and oxidizer are in different
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