Holy hybrid flying Ferraris, Batman!
It's a Car. It's a Plane. And it's a Hybrid.
Think hybrids are just for smug eco-conscious commuters creeping through rush-hour traffic? Think again. Paul Moller, the guy who brought us the much-hyped but never-built SkyCar, is hopping on the green bandwagon with a sexed-up gas-electric aero-car based on the Ferrari 599 GTB.
Moller's flying Ferrari, if it comes to fruition, could carry you 75 miles in the air and 150 miles on the ground, with 40 miles of that coming from the batteries. Moller says the Autovolantor will work just like a plug-in hybrid until you get sick of sitting in traffic, at which point you can take off vertically and fly at speeds reaching 150 mph -- 55 mph slower than an unmolested 599 is capable -- for as long as 15 minutes.
So what's the inspiration for the Autovolantor? Was it the culmination of a lifelong dream to combine a super-exotic sports car with the thrill of flight? Not quite.
"We had a Russian billionaire come to us complaining that he was sick of sitting in Moscow traffic," Paul Moller told us. "He gave us money and told us to build a car that flies."
That part makes sense -- sort of -- but doesn't explain why Moller chose a $300,000 Italian exotic instead of, say, a Ford Focus. Moller says it all came down to what's practical. "We must have tested 100 different cars," he explains. "But the Ferrari's long hood was really the best choice when it came time to make room for the fans."
The Autovolnator uses eight fans just like the ones that power the SkyCar Moller's been working on forever. That craft, billed as a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTOL) and once offered for sale by Neiman-Marcus for $3.5 million, could hover up to 10 feet off the ground using ducted fans to provide lift and propulsion. "Really, we're just taking the SkyCar and morphing it into a different shape," Moller says of the Autovolantor. "That's why we were able to get the design done in about five months."
Moller says he's performed wind tunnel and stability analysis tests on a model (which looks to us like a Revell model kit with wings tacked on) and the results "predict good all-around performance," according to the Sacramento Business Journal. But that's as far as the project's gone. The Russian businessman closed his wallet when he learned a prototype would cost about $5 million. "We would love to be able to build a prototype, but we're not going to be able to on our own nickel," Bruce Calkin, company general manager, told the Journal. Should the Russian reconsider, Moller tells us it wouldn't take that long to start testing a real vehicle.
Don't hold your breath waiting for your hybrid flying car. Even if there was a demand for such a vehicle, Moller says the Department of Transportation would never give it a thumbs up. "It would be an interesting process to see if we could make it satisfy the DOT," he says. For now, it looks like the Autovolantor will remain little more than a technical paper (.pdf), a scale model and a really bad Photoshop rendering. But Moller notes, "You have to assume there are other millionaires there sitting in traffic. Maybe some of them would want one."
Images by Moller International.