From the February 2018 issue
Flying cars used to be not much more than Ford Pintos with wings. Now they’re “sky taxis” and “roadable aircraft” and a hundred other cute names that promise the dream of streaking over traffic instead of crawling through it. They’re ideas that never result in much but just won’t die, and the rise of hobby drones has given the concept a new plausibility (they can probably make those things big and sturdy enough to ride in, no?). We’re still skeptical, but some of the science projects below have actually flown as prototypes. And now there are billionaires pursuing this faraway dream.
Floating out of Slovakia with a reported $1.3 million price tag, the AeroMobil packs foldable wings and a mid-mounted 300-hp flat-four engine into a slick carbon-fiber structure. When the engine isn’t turning the rear-mounted propeller, it powers a generator for the electric motors driving the front wheels.
Odds of Success ........ 150:1
Terrafugia has been developing its flying car, the Transition, since 2006, and prototypes have been in the air since 2009. The company does have an FAA waiver—oh, and money. China’s Geely, the company that revived Volvo, also bought Terrafugia last year.
Odds of Success ........ 100:1
Based in Munich, Germany, Lilium is developing the world’s first electric vertical takeoff and landing jet. The prototype uses 36 teensy little engines to reach a top speed of 186 mph, and an unmanned remote-controlled version successfully flew last April. The company reportedly raised $90 million in September, much of it coming from China’s Tencent Holdings as well as investment firms controlled by founders of Skype and Twitter.
Odds of Success ........ 76:1
Flying with 18 tiny rotors spun by individual motors, the electric two-passenger Volocopter 2X is intended to be the “world’s first autonomous air taxi.” The company recently raised $30 million from investors that include Intel and Daimler. A prototype has flown around Dubai, but if the operation comes up short, it could always be repurposed as a food processor.
Odds of Success ........ 75:1
005. Kitty Hawk and Zee.Aero
Meet Larry Page, Google co-founder. Forbes says the 44-year-old is worth $47.7 billion, as of this writing. What does the 12th-richest dude in the universe do for fun? He throws more than $100 million at his two flying-car projects headquartered down the street from Google in Mountain View, California. Looking like an exercise bike attached to a couple of pontoons, the Kitty Hawk Flyer got airborne last April. Zee.Aero is more secretive, but a prototype in line with 2013 patent drawings has been seen hovering around the airport in nearby Hollister. Worst-case scenario, Page blows 99 percent of his fortune chasing the dream. Which leaves him only $472 million to scrape by on.
Odds of Success ........ 47:1