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Toyota Only the Latest to Dream of Launching a Flying Car

Patent application shows unique approach to fold-away wings.

by on Sep.11, 2015

A patent application showing Toyota's "aerocar" concept with its foldaway wings.

Wouldn’t it be great to fly home after a long day’s work – quite literally taking to the air rather than getting stuck in a traffic jam? That’s a fantasy nearly as old as the auto industry itself, and now, it seems, Japanese giant Toyota Motor Co. may be working up plans to develop a flying automobile, at least according to a recent patent filing.

How serious Toyota is about building a flying car the company isn’t saying, but it wouldn’t be nearly the first to give the idea a try. Industry pioneer Henry Ford was an early proponent, abandoning the idea of a flying version of his Model T only after the fatal crash of a friend and chief co-pilot. Meanwhile, a group of MIT grads has already begun testing their own flying car concept even as a Defense Department research group explores the idea of sending soldiers into battle on a flying motorcycle.

The Last Word!

Forget Blade Runner, or the Jetsons, for that matter. Few expect to see a world in which commuters routinely take to the air anytime soon. But proponents believe that at least some well-heeled motorists could leapfrog traffic in the not-too-distant future.

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Flying Car Takes Another Step Toward Reality

Aeromobil 2.5 shows progress toward “Jetsons” lifestyle.

by on Nov.05, 2013

Aeromobil 2.5 uses carbon fiber wings and a Rotax engine to power it on the ground and in the air.

Every few years, an inventor gets the public a little closer what was once envisioned by Henry Ford: a flying car.

“Mark my word: a combination airplane and motor car is coming. You may smile, but it’s coming,” Ford is often quoted as saying later in his life.

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The latest iteration is Aeromobil, the brainchild of Slovakian engineer Stefan Klein. Actually, Klein recently rolled out version 2.5 of the vehicle and is already working on 3.0. (more…)

VW Unveils Hover Car

Floating vehicle uses electromagnetic levitation.

by on Jun.04, 2012

VW's Hover Car uses magnetic levitation to float inches above a road surface.

It looks like a flying glass donut and would seem more appropriate in a remake of the Jetsons but Volkswagen’s hovercraft concept is a bit more than just sci-fi.

The prototype emerges from the “People’s Car Project,” a crowd-sourcing program VW has set up in China to encourage owners and fans to submit ideas about what sort of cars they’d like to drive in the future.

The disc-shaped hovercraft can seat two people and uses magnetic levitation to ride several inches over the road surface.  That’s a bit different from a conventional hovercraft which rides on a cushion of air.

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The underlying concept is, in fact, anything but science fiction.  China already has a magnetic levitation train running between downtown Shanghai and the city’s main airport.  There are plans under discussion to create a network of similar lines across the country.

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SpaceShipOne’s Burt Rutan Tries His Hand at a Flying Car

Legendary designer reveals the gas-electric-powered BiPod.

by on Jul.27, 2011

Burt Rutan's final project is the Model 367 BiPod.

If there’s one thing Burt Rutan is good at it’s turning dreams into reality.  His Voyager was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.  And his suborbital SpaceShipOne not only claimed the $10 million Ansari X-Prize but is helping in motion the dream of private space flight.  So, who better to transform the long-running fantasy of the flying car into something real?

With the unveiling of his Model 367 BiPod, Rutan and his firm Scalred Composites become the latest in a series of visionaries – dating back to at least Henry Ford – hoping to find a functional way to combine a car with an airplane.

It isn’t quite George Jetson’s briefcase aerocar.  The BiPod uses an unusual design with, as the name suggests, a twin, pod-like fuselage which not only provides two cockpits but protected storage for the wings and tail surfaces while operating on the ground.  The right pod handles airborne duties, the left takes control on the ground.

The Inside Story!

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the BiPod is its source of power.  Rutan – who developed the concept before retiring last April – has always been a fan of light and energy-efficient designs.  He’s been experimenting with personal electric aircraft for more than a decade.  And with the Model 367 he has adopted an extended-range electric system that is quite similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt.

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