We all love to drive. But the reality is that driving is a compromise. What we REALLY want to do is fly. That’s why the instant cars became a mainstream product, we began to think more forwardly. Flying Cars were the ‘Next Big Thing’ in an age where smartphones didn’t exist. The 1950s were riddled with everyone trying to create their version of the Flying Car, while the Jetsons materialized the fantasy in the 1960s. Sadly, there was never any real engineering or tangible proof of concept behind the fantasy. That ‘Next Big Thing’ never came, resulting in the production of cars that only looked like they can take off. They were beautiful though, don’t get us wrong.
Lately, any version of a ‘Flying Car’ looks as ridiculous as the concept of taking off in your daily driver. They’re essentially airplanes that can transform into a road worthy object. This meant it needed four wheels and wings that fold upwards. It made the Flying Car something that was reasonable for flight but a pretty horrific car. But we can’t blame those companies for attempting to make a consumer product that’s truly cutting edge. The technology just wasn’t there yet: battery energy densities just was not up to par and the engines used for propulsion were heavy, and when it comes to flying weight is everything.
Now there’s a Munich based company called Lilium Aviation that seems to be on the cusp of taking the next generational leap of making the Flying Car a reality. In April 2017 they just completed their first test flight of their two-seater VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) all-electric prototype.
The key lies in the battery technology that powers the Lilium Jet. According to Patrick Nathen, co-founder of Lilium Jet and the startup’s head of calculation and design:
It’s the same battery that you can find in any Tesla. The concept is that we are lifting with our wings as soon as we progress into the air with velocity, which makes our airplane very efficient. Compared to other flights, we have extremely low power consumption.
According to The Verge:
The craft is powered by 36 separate jet engines mounted on its 10-meter long wings via 12 movable flaps. At take-off, the flaps are pointed downwards to provide vertical lift. And once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, providing forward thrust. During the tests, the jet was piloted remotely, but its operators say their first manned flight is close-at-hand. And Lilium claims that its electric battery “consumes around 90 percent less energy than drone-style aircraft,” enabling the aircraft to achieve a range of 300 kilometers (183 miles) with a maximum cruising speed of 300 kph (183 mph).
So what does this mean for Flying Cars? We’re certainly not there yet. However, the technological leap has been made and proven and tested in the cars that we already see on the roads. Thanks to Tesla, batteries with high energy densities can be manufactured and used by other forward thinking companies. It’s now easier than ever to make products and devices that require significant amount of energy, without weighing a ton. This explains why we see products like drones (quadcopters) becoming more mainstream, because the battery technology exists. We can now expect Lilium Aviation and most likely other companies to try their hand at making their own flying car. This might just be the Next Big Thing in cars.
(Source: Lilium Aviation & The Verge)