While flying cars were once the stuff of science fiction, they may soon become a part of everyday reality. Alef Aeronautics began working on their 100% electric flying car model in 2015, and the California-based company just hit a major milestone. As of summer 2023, their Model A flying car received official federal approval to take to the skies.
Guangdong’s Xpeng received a conditional permit to fly from the Chinese government earlier this year. Australia’s Ace VTOL has a promising prototype as well. The industry has plenty of buzz to suggest that a mass-market flying car is within reach for the general public. Seed funding and innovative tech aside, though, are electric flying cars really taking off?
To help answer this question and more, let’s take a deeper dive into the inner workings of the flying car industry.
How Does a Flying Car Work?
Surprisingly, the Alef Aeronautics flying car looks and drives similar to a high-end electric vehicle. Ideally, drivers can employ their flying cars like a typical, road-based automobile but pivot into an airborne option when necessary (i.e., heavy traffic, impassable roads, or dangerous driving conditions). Of course, it’s easier said than done. Engineers must design an aerodynamic vehicle that doesn’t rely on an obtrusive wingspan (which would seriously limit road capacity).
To get around the physics, the Alef Model A is crafted with a permeable, lightweight body and rotating propeller blades underneath the vehicle’s body. The car lifts off vertically and then turns in the air, exposing the blades that create forward motion. The clever designers built the seats to swivel accordingly, allowing the passengers to stay upright.
Currently, the all-electric Model A has a range of 200 miles by road and 110 miles by air. Users would mostly employ the flight function to dodge traffic rather than actually take an extended flight. However, the company aspires to create a flying car with a longer flight capacity.
That’s just one model. Other companies have their own approaches. Slovakia’s AirCar has its aerodynamic tail and wings tucked into a hidden compartment; like a Transformer, a simple button converts the vehicle from a shiny sports car into a small aircraft. The Netherlands’ Liberty Sport operates more like a helicopter, though the model requires an airstrip to gain enough momentum for lift-off. Only time will tell which designs beat out the competition.
What Barriers Must Flying Car Manufacturers Consider?
The technology behind an electric flying car is very real, but that doesn’t mean the general public will start seeing these airborne autos at their local dealership. There are plenty of major practical, regulatory, and security barriers to consider before flying cars become an accessible reality.
To pre-order a Model A electric flying car from Alef Aeronautics, you’ll need to shell out about $300k. The AirCar could cost upwards of $1 million. Most everyday citizens can’t swing that kind of price tag, meaning only the uber-wealthy could reasonably afford the novelty. Automakers need to dramatically increase production to make the flying car more affordable. However, densely populated cities like New York or Mumbai could reasonably invest in air-based public transportation options. The L.A. Department of Transportation has even commissioned a report into the viability of an urban air mobility plan.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration views flying cars like any aircraft, meaning drivers must gain their pilot’s license in order to operate the vehicle. Earning this credential requires significant fees and training hours. Busy Americans might decide it’s easier to stick to the ground.
Worldwide power grids can’t currently meet electric flying car charging needs. Much like normal EVs, the availability of accessible and reliable charging options has not caught up with demand. For flying cars to accomplish mass-market production, countries will need to reconsider their overall power and transportation infrastructure.
It’s unlikely that the average American will have a flying car in their driveway anytime soon. But, as futuristic as the concept seems, electric flying cars are happening. There are obviously obstacles to overcome, but the public is probably just ten years away from a marketable flying car. In fact, Alef Aeronautics is actively developing its “Model Z,” a four-seater sedan priced at just $35K. The technology is here, so yes, electric flying cars are really taking off. Better get your pilot’s license ready.
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By evee Life Contributor
Published October 24, 2023 1:40PM
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