In the year where Marty McFly is set to arrive from the past, it would seem that it isn't only the race to create a hoverboard which is heating up; more and more companies are now coming forward with their own flying car concepts.
You may have seen our recent report on the latest concept from
Aeromobil – a Slovakian company who are aiming to have a fully functioning flying car on your drive by 2017. Although they look to be on track for their 2017 deadline and have created a fully functioning prototype that has accomplished a number of flights, they, like many, still face a series of issues.
It seems that the most crippling of these is that their aircraft/car requires a runway to take flight; this was addressed by their CEO in a press conference but, until runways accompany roads, there isn't really a solution short of needing to visit your local airstrip or to buy your own. That's where this new creation from Terrafugia comes in.
The name 'Terrafugia' may already ring a bell, if it doesn't then you'd probably still recognise their first flying car project 'Transition'. Aesthetically, Transition was very much like any other flying car project – aeroplane shaped body with two large wings tucked against its sides and a long tail dragging behind. The concept worked perfectly and accomplished multiple flights; it still suffered from the same old fundamental problem however: the need for a runway. Lessons learnt from this project have led to the all-new 'TF-X', the first flying car concept to feature VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capability.
The TF-X is possibly one of the most advanced and ambitious flying car projects to be revealed to date; featuring plug-in hybrid technology, autonomous drive and the aforementioned VTOL capability. Looking very much like a people carrier that fell straight out of The Jetsons, the four-seat creation fits in a single car garage and is certainly something to behold.
In driving mode, the TF-X operates just like any other hybrid car; using its electric motors and petrol engine in tandem to allow for efficient driving and assumedly a high mpg figure. It is once flying mode is selected that the TF-X becomes something very special; the vehicles transformation begins as two wings unfold from their neat resting places alongside the rear of the vehicle. Sitting at the end of each wing is a small propeller engine with blades that retract both when tucked away for driving mode and during the cruising phase of flight.
Utilising both the electric motors and the 300bhp petrol engine to create a megawatt of output, the TF-X uses the little engines to take flight like a helicopter before switching to a large rear mounted propeller to achieve a cruising speed of around 200mph.
During flight the TF-X is virtually autonomous and will automatically head towards a pre-specified landing zone whilst circumnavigating obstacles such as other airborne traffic, bad weather and restricted airspace. It's not clear yet whether this feature skirts around the issue of requiring both a driver's license and a pilot's license to operate the vehicle's flight mode, but it certainly makes for some impressive technology should it be accomplishable.
The TF-X is just as clever when it comes to landing. The aircraft will head to a pre-selected landing zone but also keeps in mind a pre-specified back up landing zone, every landing must be approved by the driver but is accomplished autonomously by the TF-X. Should the TF-X malfunction and be unable to land, it can deploy a full-vehicle parachute and slowly float back down to Earth.
As a concept the TF-X is certainly very impressive but, at the time this was written, Terrafugia are yet to produce a real life version; leaving it firmly in the imagination of the 20 company employees and the renders that you see here. Terrafugia are adamant that they can achieve everything they're promising within the next eight years and say you can pre-order your very own for £180,000.