How much do you want a flying car? Lots. Obviously. Well call your bank, because 2011 could be the year. Two American companies say they will begin selling flying cars to real, live consumers this year. And even the Army is getting in on the craze, taking steps now to develop its own ungainly hybrid car/plane/helicopter thing.
All three vehicles take very different approaches to making cars fly. The cheapest, and the easiest on the eyes, is the Maverick. Built by a company called Beyond Roads in Dunellon, Florida, the Maverick actually is three vehicles in one: A dune buggy, a highway-legal car, and a powered hang glider.
There is just one word to describe this: Sweet.
The Maverick is powered by a Subaru engine, so it can tear the hell out of sand dunes, as this video by the company clearly demonstrates. It has headlights and turn signals and a spot to screw in a license plate, which is about all it takes to be street legal in the US of A, apparently. In flight mode, the dune buggy hangs from the parachute like a hefty baby carried by a stork.
Of course I want one. Because it will help me, um, check on all those miles and miles of oil pipeline that I own.
“(T)he Maverick is designed to be a platform for whatever task you need it to perform,” according to the company’s website, “whether it be checking pipelines or cattle from the air or delivering medicine to tribes in the heart of the jungle.”
So if you don’t actually have $80,000 you need for your own a flying dune buggy, you’ll have to get some financing. The average car loan lasts five years and has a 4.4% interest rate, according to Bankrate.co. And let’s say you make a 10% downpayment of $8,000.
That leaves you with monthly payments of $1,258. Which is a lot of money, especially considering that the same money could buy you a Mercedes CLS, which sacrifices the parachute and oversized propeller for boring things like heat, air conditioning and a radio.
But the Maverick is actually the Honda Civic of flying cars. For more than twice the money you can get the Transition, a far uglier but much more airworthy-looking plane/car thing. It has fold-up wings like a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, and crumple zones like a regular car.
“The Transition can transition between flying and driving almost instantly,” Carl Dietrich, CEO of the Transition’s manufacturer, Terrafugia, says in a video on the company’s website.
The Transition also runs on unleaded fuel, which is much cheaper than airplane fuel. That’ll be important, since the vehicle costs $200,000, as much as a Lamborghini Gallardo. Making the same assumptions as we did above – 10% downpayment, 4.4% interest rate over five years, that translates to monthly payments of $3,132.
Finally there’s what may become the ne plus ultra of ungainly car/plane things: The Army’s flying Humvee. The Department of Defense, in its ongoing mission to deprive cool things of cool names, calls it an “autonomous vehicle capable of both all-terrain land operation and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) flight.”
A rendering of the concept vehicle, available in a tiny picture on the website of Textron, the military contractor hired to work on the project, looks vaguely like a Humvee with a helicopter rotor on the roof and a propeller bolted onto the trunk.
“Dubbed the Transformer, the vehicle would be able to accommodate missions including interdiction, counterinsurgency, reconnaissance, medical evacuation and logistics,” Textron says on its site.
The government has paid Textron $15 million to create the first phase of the vehicle’s development. I won’t even bother translating that into monthly payments.
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