There’s something in the air! Is it a plane? Is it a bird? No, it’s something that many would expect not to be in the air. Cars. By the definition of such a vehicle, at least. Before moving on, just a reminder that this post will not include any Harry Potter or The Fifth Element-related puns. Flying cars are just a matter of time according to Rolls Royce. You’re probably thinking: “Hey, what’s the difference between a flying car and an airplane?”. Let’s get the definition down first. While a plane solely provides transportation solely by air, a flying car takes this a step further, namely in the provision of both door-to-door transportation by ground and air. This case of wanting cars in the sky was demonstrated at the Farnborough air fair and a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) concept was displayed – revealing a desire for partners in such a project. Here are some quick facts about the project:
An interesting discussion on the question about why flying cars haven’t taken off yet, I recommend reading a piece by The Guardian that examines some of the recent history and trends that have many us arrive at this point. Besides autonomous technology and electrification, flying cars are a hot tech trend. In a short time, several businesses like Kitty Hawk and Volocopter have demonstrated their flying pieces of art. But giants like Boeing and Airbus are also watching this area of interest. Not least because the latter believe the market for smaller airplanes will be larger than their current segment of commercial aircraft.
But no matter who builds the craft they need something that works – and this is what Rolls-Royce expects to come in. The British engine manufacturer has recently been afflicted with technical problems, and certainly wants to shift the focus to something new and more dynamic to their image. Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity?
Rolls Royce believes they have a working driveline that fits small airplanes. During the Farnborough International Airshow air show, a hybrid-electric so-called VTOL vessel (vertical take-off and landing) was displayed. The “car” has capacity for up to five people, a top speed of 400 km / h (!) and a range of around 80 miles. This means that you can take a round trip between London and Paris on a charge, or a single trip from Stockholm to Berlin.
The interesting driveline is based on the manufacturer’s well-proven M250 turbine (a first-generation helicopter engine developed in the late 1950s) as the main source of energy. This generates an estimated 500 kW of power for propulsion. In addition to this, the system includes a battery system (which makes it a series hybrid) that provides an additional 300-400 kW for start landing. The hybrid system has the advantage that it does not require any long charging times.
Airplane with battery or hybrid? Rolls-Royce believes that clean battery operation may be up to date in the long term – but expects hybrids will be available in the near future.
“Electricity is an exciting and unavoidable trend in industrial technology, and although electric propulsion will come gradually for us – it will be a revolution. Rolls-Royce is actively looking for potential markets and applications for electric and hybrid-powered flights,” said Rob Watson, director of Rolls-Royce Electronics Development.
The concept of Rolls-Royce showed up was not that amazing, but it has to do with the fact that the engine manufacturer is not interested in building the vehicles themselves. No, you want to deliver drivelines and the hope is to show a working solution – make others jump on the airplane dream.
And while it may seem science fiction, Rolls-Royce believes that the technology exists to make flying cars a reality already in the early 2020s. What will be the limit is regulation.
Rolls-Royce has a long history of being a pioneer in the airline. From the development of the first turboprop and jet engine to creating the world’s most efficient commercial airplane engines as well as vertical launch and landing solutions. There’s a good pedigree. When the third generation of air travel begins to creak – it’s time to be a pioneer again. It’ll be more than interesting to see how they carry on with this project up until 2020 and whether other businesses like Uber catch on to this exciting trend. The Guardian will have to update that article soon, because exciting developments are occurring in the field of flying cars and it’s not only Rolls Royce that proves it.
Evolvera – always changing, always evolving.