RAAMSDONKSVEER, Netherlands (AFP) – From “The Jetsons” to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, flying cars have long captured the imagination.
While several futuristic projects are under way in different countries, a Dutch design may be the first one sold and soaring into the skies.
After years of testing, the PAL-V company aims to pip its competitors to the post. It is poised to start production on what they bill as a world first: A three-wheeled gyrocopter-type vehicle which can carry two people and will be certified for use on the roads and in the skies.
“This kind of dream has been around for 100 years now. When the first airplane was invented people already thought ‘How can I make that driveable on the road?’,” chief marketing officer Markus Hess told AFP.
The PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) firm, based in Raamsdonksveer in the Netherlands, is aiming to deliver its first flying car to its first customer by the end of 2018.
The lucky owner will need both a driving licence and a pilot’s licence. But with the keys in hand, the owner will be able to drive to an airfield for the short take-off, and after landing elsewhere drive to the destination in a “door-to-door” experience.
Different versions of a flying car are being developed in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Japan, China and the United States.
But final assembly on the PAL-V will start in October, with the company seeking to be the first to go into commercial production.
The PAL-V uses normal unleaded petrol for its two 100-horsepower engines, and can fly 400 to 500 kilometres at an altitude of up to 3,500 metres.
On the road it has a top speed of around 170 kilometres an hour.
In 2019, the company expects to produce between 50 and 100 vehicles, before ramping up to “quite a few hundred” in 2020.
It won’t be cheap. The first edition, the PAL-V Liberty, costs 499,000 euros ($599,000), while the slightly cheaper PAL-V Liberty Sport, to be made next, has a price tag of 299,000 euros.
PAL-V was founded in 2007 by Robert Dingemanse and pilot John Bakker.
“In the beginning it was, let’s make a gyrocopter drivable,” said Hess.
But the company, which has some 40 to 50 employees, realised the weight and length of a gyrocopter’s blades gave the vehicle a high centre of gravity when driving, especially taking corners.
They have designed the car so at the flick of a button the blades fold down and gather like a bat’s wings on the top.