The first flying cars are set to go on sale to the public as early as 2015. Terrafugia has announced its Transition design, which is part sedan, part private jet with two seats, four wheels and wings that fold up so it can be driven like a car, will be on sale in less than two years.
The Transition can reach speeds of around 70 miles per hour on the road and 115 in the air. It flies using a 23-gallon tank of automotive fuel and burns 5 gallons per hour in the air. On the ground, it gets 35 miles per gallon. It has rear-wheel drive when on the road. The Transition comes with two passenger airbags, and a full-vehicle parachute.
The Massachusetts-based firm has also unveiled plans for a TF-X model that will be small enough to fit in a garage, and won’t need a runway to take off. Last year, the Transition successfully flew at 1,400 feet for eight minutes. Commercial jets fly at 35,000 feet. However, it will not be cheap – the Transition will cost £190,000 ($300,000). And Terrafugia says owners must have pilot’s licenses, and will need to pass a test plus complete 20 hours of flying time to be able to fly the car.
Despite the advances in technology the Transition demonstrates, critics have said that it is still not the vision of flying cars seen in many sci-fi films. To answer these critics, Terrafugia has now also released designs for a TF-X Model of its Transition range. Whereas the Transition requires a runway, the TF-X can take off from a vertical position because of motorised rotors on the wings. These rotors will work in a similar way to helicopter rotors. Being able to take off from standstill means owners will be able to go from the road to the air straight from their driveways, car parks and even when stuck in traffic. Although you will still need at least 100 feet in diameter in order to open the wings.
According to Terrafugia, the vehicle will carry four people ‘in car-like comfort’. It is expected to be able to fly, nonstop, for 500 miles. The TF-X model has not been tested yet, and prices haven’t been announced.
Terrafugia hopes to have working models of the TF-X available for sale within eight to 12 years. Like with the Transition, you will need 20 hours of flying and a pilot’s licence to drive it, though. The flying car has always had a special place in the American imagination.
Inventors have been trying to make them since the 1930s, according to Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst who owns R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, New York. But Mann thinks Terrafugia has come closer than anyone to making the flying cars a reality.