Slovakian Flying Car Prototype Takes Off
Auto shows are great for getting a glimpse into the future of the car market but, unfortunately, the coolest, most imaginative, most innovative concepts and designs often remain on the drawing board. Indeed, the automotive industry is a tough business and there’s only a small segment of the market willing or able to splurge on limited-production ultra-luxury cars. So, here are six futuristic concept cars we wish we could buy right now.
The ultimate litmus test for whether or not you’re living in the future is whether or not there are flying cars zipping through the skies. Well, here’s some good news: We’re getting really close. The TF-X from Terrafugia (pictured) will be a street legal plug-in hybrid car that has collapsible wings, retractable propellers, and is capable of driving and flying on its own in the event of an emergency.
Let’s face it: Electric cars are the future. There will, inevitably, be a time in which fossil fuels are too expensive and precious to waste on grocery store runs. In the meantime, however, super-efficient gas-powered vehicles will be a trend. And this is one trend that can’t catch on soon enough.
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Sure, steampunk has become a popular aesthetic amongst sci-fi aficionados, but could steam-powered cars really play a role in the future of transportation? It’s a long shot, but in a future where efficiency and fuel conservation are primary concerns, odd alternatives like steam could play a role.
Smartphone on Wheels
Increasingly, car companies are working to close the gap between the technology on the road and the technology in our pockets—but they still have a long way to go. Concepts like the Toyota Fun-Vii, however, show a glimmer of that interactive, intelligent, driving future.
Everyone loves the growl of a powerful super car, but we all have to admit that one design does not suit every application. Life in a city, or habitual short-trip driving demands a very different vehicle than, certainly, the race track. This growing use case presents different requirements, though, than even the majority of sedans. Microcars are a smart solution to these real-world problems.
Looks like Terrafugia and PAL-V have some company in an ongoing effort to produce commercial street legal aircraft known simply as flying cars. A prototype of the Aeromobil flying car, created by a Slovak designer, recently took to the skies.
Štefan Klein is Aeromobil‘s cofounder and chief designer. In the past he’s worked on projects for Audi, BMW and Volkswagen at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, according to his bio. Klein began developing the first Aeromobil in the early 1990s and this fall his Aeromobil 2.5 prototype went on a test flight in Slovakia, shown in this video.
This steel and carbon-fiber coated prototype has unfolding wings, a bit like the Terrafugia Transition. It sports a Rotax 912 engine that helps it go 124 mph and a range of 430 miles, AVWeb’s Mary Grady reported. The Aeromobil 2.5 also weighs 992 pounds which, as Gizmag’s Francis X Govers III pointed out, makes it lighter than a Ford Fiesta. Like a Fiesta, you could fill up at a gas station since this flying car doesn’t require special aviation fuel. The small size, like the Dutch PAL-V motorcycle-gyrocopter, means the Aeromobil fits into a standard parking spot.
Klein has said he imagines a future where it takes mere seconds to go from driving to flying out of an airport. He pictures landing flying cars on dedicated grass areas next to highways. ”Does that sound a little sci-fi?” he told the car magazine Auto SME (a Google-assisted translation from Slovak to English). “Sure, but look at the United States. Individual airlines are starting to pay close attention and put resources into small airports.”
Currently the company is looking for investors and partners. Watching the video of their prototype’s sort of shaky test flight, I’d hesitate to jump into one right now. After all, as many experts caution, combining aircraft and road vehicles means making sacrifices in performance. But as more serious competition enters the marketplace, the more likely street legal aircraft will become a real market. I look forward to seeing a wider array of vehicles that could make air travel easier and help us avoid burning jet fuel.
A commercial flying car with impeccable safety, environmental responsibility and decent features is going to happen. The question becomes who will be behind the wheel when it does.
Photo: The Aeromobil 2.5 prototype prepares for a test flight this fall. Credit: Aeromobil.