Mankind has always looked towards the skies and wondered if he too, could fly like the birds. Then the Wright Brothers successfully flew the first airplane, and the rest is history. Or, is it? Ever since the advent of the modern airplane and the automobile, people have wondered if the two vehicles would come together to form one. Just take a look at any example of science fiction published within the last 100-years or so, and chances are they talk about flying cars to some degree. Between The Avengers and Star Wars, it seems like we should have the already, right? Well it seems that flying cars could be here sooner than we think. Actually the company known as Terrafugia have already constructed a prototype, and they want to launch their second model sometime within the next decade.
Founded in 2006 by MIT graduates, Terrafugia is a small American company that’s based out of Massachusetts. Ever since they got their start, they have had but one dream: to produce a road-going vehicle that could also fly. Their first project was called the Transition: a small aircraft with collapsable wings that could be driven on roads. The prototype version has been flown a few times, and deliveries are expected to begin sometime within the next few years. However while it’s impressive, it’s more-or-less an airplane that happens to have four wheels. Well recently they have announced their newest vehicle, the TF-X, and it could be the worlds first true flying car.
While Terrafugia’s Transition is more of a platform to get the ball rolling, the TF-X is really a true flying car in all respects. It looks more like a car, it’s smaller than the Transition, it can accommodate four people, it’s a plug-in hybrid, and it can even take off vertically unlike the Transition that needs a traditional runway. At least, that’s what Terrafugia exclaims it will be able to do as they are still developing the project. The TF-X can fit in a standard car garage, making it potentially much more viable than their Transition or other comparable vehicles that are out there. They say the vehicle will be able to function on both roads and in the air, and it would even have some sort of semi-autonomous computer system allowing flight to be safer and easier. Terrafugia says that it’s hybrid engine will allow the TF-X to be able to fly “at least 500 miles” without stopping and it will be able to achieve speeds of 200 mph. And remember, it will be able to do all of these things with luxury car levels of comfort. Obviously this vehicle will not be cheap, and Terrafugia believes it will be priced around the same as “very high-end luxury cars”. So, will the TF-X start a revolution?
Maybe not quite. We need to just hold on first, as I am still very skeptical. While Terrafugia did create a few prototype Transitions that did sustain flight, they still have not made any deliveries as of yet. They have pushed back the release date of their first vehicle a few times now and have risen it’s price, and now they want to make another one? Additionally the cost of their first vehicle is around $279,000, and the TF-X seems to be quite the step up. Who could realistically afford such a vehicle? Also, it seems almost to good to be true. They are promising fly-by-wire technology, vertical takeoff capabilities, a four-seater cabin, luxury car levels of comfort, speeds of 200 mph, and a range over 500 miles…all on a car-sized, hybrid engine? That seems a bit too much if you ask me, but hey, I’m not an engineer. So I wouldn’t hold my breath for flying cars just yet, but Terrafugia did say that it will take between eight and twelve years to develop the TF-X. I guess for the time being, we will have to wait and see what the future holds.
Photos from terrafugia.com