OK, this is probably one of the easiest titles to pull off — “Geely buys Terrafugia and takes to the skies.” The consequences of one of the biggest carmakers in the world continuing its buying spree, this time with a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) startup, are interesting and revealing. China is still very determined to build its transportation industry in order to better compete in the international arena.
Geely Buys Terrafugia
A few years ago, news about VTOL startups and flying concepts came up often in the news. Today, there is a healthy landscape of VTOL startups and deep pockets working on their development, including NASA, Boeing, and more.
If you’ve been following CleanTechnica closely, you know that we’ve covered the growing VTOL market much, much more this year, showing the various players in the field. Larry Page, one of Google’s famous co-founders, now chief executive of parent company Alphabet, has so far secretly spent more than $100 million on developing flying cars. He’s one of several major players who have joined this poker game.
VTOLs now come in all sorts of shapes and forms, synthesizing the best from cars to airplanes into individual vehicles. A company named Lilium is currently testing a VTOL taxi. But the difference with the now 11-year-old Terrafugia was how sleek and polished its flying car was compared to others.
As far as the Geely juggernaut, it is not happy only owning Volvo, Lotus, Malaysia’s Proton, as well as Manganese Bronze, the famed London Taxi Company. It has now gone after and gobbled up Terrafugia, the first company to design the world’s first practical “flying car.”
Terrafugia claims its road-going aircraft will have a cruising range of approximately 400 miles, reach top speeds of up to 100 MPH, and be highway-speed capable. And since whatever comes up eventually comes down, the controlled way of doing that is to equip its “Transition” with a full-vehicle parachute. The Terrafugia Transition also uses advanced autonomous flight technologies as an automatic terrain avoidance and guidance system.
Financially wise, let’s not forget that Terrafugia raised a total of $5.82 million in five funding rounds from Boston-based angel investor Semyon Dukach and venture capital firm Transcendent Holdings, according to CrunchBase.
Who is Geely?
Simply put, Geely is a force to be reckoned with. It is a Hangzhou, China-based company, which currently offers 11 cars in the country. Its real name is technically Zhejiang Geely, and Geely Automotive is a subsidiary of that. Geely started out as a refrigerator producer in 1986. It has owned Volvo Cars since 2010 and The London Taxi Company since 2012. It has finally finished the acquisition of Terrafugia it started last year, according to the South China Morning Post.
This acquisition comes on the heels of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approving Terrafugia’s 2014 Petition for Exemption, allowing a vehicle in the Transition street-legal airplane configuration to be certified as a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) with a maximum takeoff weight of 1,800 pounds. What this means is a significant increase over the allowance received in 2010 that granted the Transition a 1,430 lb weight limit, the same as currently imposed on amphibious LSA. It also means licensing won’t be as harsh as we previously thought it would be, which could be a good thing, or not at all.
VTOL Is Future Big Business
The near future of the VTOL market certainly looks very lucrative. Companies need to be well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. Uber has already beaten the VTOL drum and is trying to establish a yearly summit where the who’s who meet and show what they have been working on.
But with all the VTOL startup choice, why Terrafugia? Terrafugia, founded by a group of MIT graduates in 2006, is really the designer of the world’s first practical flying car, the Transition. Terrafugia is currently accepting $10,000 deposits for potential clients to reserve their spot to purchase it. Speaking of deliveries, they are expected to hit the street and air within 3 years. And the final topic: the price. How much is the full monty? The estimated price is set to be $279,000.
Terrafugia’s Transition is perhaps one of the clearest glimpses as to how VTOLs will look like in the near future.
Guess who’s showing up for the Back to the Future documentary? You named it, a Terrafugia.
Geely buying into Terrafugia’s 100 MPH, 400 mile, 500 lb flying car is a big shot in the arm of the VTOL industry. Considering it can fly up to 10,000 feet and only burn 5 gallons per hour with its Rotax 912iS certainly makes it attractive on paper. Perhaps the biggest question is when it will become electric, something we’ll have to leave for a future article. We can only hope Geely’s foray into the electric vehicle (EV) automotive world will help the Transition fly quietly, and without pollution. In the meantime, Geely buying Terrafugia means VTOL are probably on their way to us within 10 to 20 years.