Despite the unfortunate happenings with Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, flying is still the safest way to travel, with the chances of dying in a plane crash somewhere around the 11,000,000:1 ratio. In fact, you’re about 5 and ½ times more likely to die falling out of bed than you are in a plane crash. Terrafugia is attempting to combine the best parts of the automotive and aviation industries in their groundbreaking flying cars.
The previously developed “Transition” is a gas powered flying car with a single engine powering both the propeller for flight and the rear wheels for road travel. The retractable wings operate similar to any plane. with about 1700ft of “runway” required for take-off. A 410 mile range ensures that you’ll have plenty of time to get in some sightseeing from the clouds, cruising at around 100 mph. Respectable 35 mpg efficiency on the ground comes at a bit of surprise, considering how cumbersome looking the vehicle is.
The Transition is equipped with driver and passenger airbags, as well as a full vehicle parachute should you be the unlucky 1 in 11 million. A down payment of $10,000 will reserve you one of these multi-purpose vehicles.
While the Transistion has been around for a couple of years, and took its maiden flight out of upstate New York two years ago, the latest brainstorming sessions have resulted in the even more advanced TF-X. The TF-X features many of the same designs but some interesting upgrades, including most importantly, a hybrid drivetrain.
Eliminating the single rear propeller design and replacing it with moveable, side mounted propellers give the TF-X the ability to take off vertically without the use of a runway, similar to a helicopter. When taking off, the wings awake from their slumber and rotate to utilize a megawatt of power to get off the ground. The power is provided by two 600hp electric motor pods, with each pod consisting of 16 individual motors. Takeoff and landing will be done automatically by the operator setting a primary target and backup landing zones in the result of an emergency.
Once in the air, the propellers fold to face forward and team up with a 300hp gas powered engine in order to reach the cruising speed of around 200 mph. Once up to speed the engine takes over completely, allowing the TF-X to recharge its batteries and close the propellers. An increased range of up to 500 miles will give you plenty of places to travel to on your day off, sans any traffic delays. A number of safety features will be incorporated, including an auto-pilot system that can land the plane in the event of unresponsive operator and automated avoidance of obstacles or weather.
The TF-X concept is still in its infancy, with many specs and pricing still to be determined. Terrafugia claims that if they’re able to achieve proper production investments, they may be able to offer the TF-X for a price comparable to the “very high-end luxury cars of today.” Whether this means something like the $80,000 Tesla Model S or closer to the $500,000 Rolls Royce Phantom is unknown, though I’m leaning towards the latter. The development team estimates an 8-12 year wait for a finished product, but with the Transition serving as a firm platform to build on, we can hope that this will be on the shorter end of that.
For those wanting to get in on the fun before anyone else, Terrafugia recommends picking up the $279,000 Transition, as loyal customers will be given preferential treatment once the faster TF-X comes out, and there definitely seems to be plenty of interest. It just goes to show that for those with enough disposable income, the sky is truly the limit.