If you thought flying cars were something you would only encounter in Harry Potter movies, you are in for a pleasant surprise. That's because there are now not one, but two companies that have successfully figured out this rather tricky engineering feat.
The first is Woburn, MA based Terrafugia, that is unveiling its creation, the two-seater Terrafugia Transition at New York's International Auto Show on Friday April 6th, 2012. In development since 2006, the hybrid car/ light aircraft is fitted with a 100 horsepower fuel efficient engine and can fly a distance of 400 miles on a single tank of gas at a top air speed of about 105 mph. On ground, the car can go up to a maximum speed of 65mph.
To convert the roadster to a light aircraft or vice versa, all the user has to do is push a button. The best part is that when it is in the car mode, it measures just 80 inches wide and 18-feet, 9 inches long, which means it fits easily inside most conventional garages. Also, unlike normal airplanes, it runs on unleaded fuel and can therefore be refueled at any ordinary gas station.
For those that are looking for some more oomph and style, there is Netherlands based PAL-V (Personal Air And Land Vehicle). Designed more like a helicopter, this two-seater features three wheels, a narrow base and a high center of gravity.
Powered by a more powerful 214 horsepower gasoline engine, the vehicle can accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than eight seconds and has a top ground and air speed of 110mph. Also, thanks to its patented tilting system, it drives more like a motorcycle than a car, appealing to those who are seeking a little more adventure, even on the ground.
The one drawback is that the PAL-V does not transition from its car mode to flying machine as seamlessly as the Terrafugia Transition. In order to change modes, the engine has to be first switched off, after which the user can extend the tail and unfold the rotor. While the process takes just a few minutes, it is not as cool as flipping a switch while driving. The other problem? While the Terrafugia Transition will be available for purchase by the end of this year, the PAL-V is still seeking investors to help get it to market.
Fortunately, given that the Terrafugia Transition costs $279,000 USD, while the PAL-V is expected to be priced at an even steeper $300,000 USD, most of us will not have to agonize about the wait or decide which flying car suits our needs best!