RAC Cars News


Terrafugia Transition - The Flying Car

By raccars Published

It sounds like a James Bond film gadget, but the flying car is finally due to become a reality. The un-inspiringly named Transition is set for commercial release in 2015, with a predicted price of £190,000.

Massachusetts firm, Terrafugia, has been working on the project since 2006 and, after various delays, is satisfied that its two-seat, four-wheel flying saloon is ready for public consumption. The vehicle has two folding wings and is able to reach a maximum speed of 70mph on the road and 115mph in the air. A successful test flight last year saw the Transition fly for eight minutes at an altitude of 1,400 feet – meaning it's in no danger of interfering with the flight path of commercial jets at around 35,000 feet.

Only those with pilots' licences will be permitted to fly the Transition and those only after passing a special test that includes 20 hours of flying time. The vehicle is equipped with a 23 gallon fuel tank, which will give drivers 35mpg on the road and is used at a rate of 5 gallons per hour while flying. Safety features are provided in the form of a couple of passenger airbags and a full vehicle parachute. Terrafugia has acquired US government compliance to use specially designed lightweight glass and tyres to make the vehicle light enough to fly and permission to omit electronic stability control, to lighten the load by another 6lb.

While the initial Transition model will need a runway to achieve take off, Terrafugia has already announced a more advanced design called the TF-X, which will be armed with a pair of wing-mounted motorised rotors like a helicopter, making it capable of vertical take off. While the TF-X will need a 100 feet of lateral space to open its wings, with them folded, it will be compact enough to be housed in a standard domestic garage. However, it may be another 12 years before the TF-X is ready for commercial release. Terrafugia plans the TF-X to be a comfortable four-seater with a 500 mile range, but has not yet produced a working model or announced prices.

A flying car is the culmination of inventors' dreams going as far back as the 1930s, but Terrafugia's version is the most realistic yet. While the Transition may represent a technological breakthrough, with such a high price tag and an untested marketplace, it is questionable whether it can become a commercial success.

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