Terrafugia’s Transition car-airplane could be considered the ultimate vehicular hybrid, but its next offering will be a hybrid of a different kind. Terrafugia is conducting a feasibility study for a plug-in hybrid and, yes, it will also fly.
The vehicle (is it a car? is it a plane?) will be called TF-X, and will improve on the Transition’s basic design in other areas as well. It will be capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), like a helicopter or a Harrier Jump Jet or the new F-35.
Since the TF-X currently exists only in the land of computer-generated images, Terrafugia doesn’t have any specific information on the powertrain, or any explanation of how a flying Chevrolet Volt will actually work.
Anyone who has followed the tortured development of the V-22 Osprey knows that building an aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like an airplane, isn’t easy. This one has to drive like a car, too.
For now, Terrafugia is only saying that the TF-X will seat four, and will come equipped with fly-by-wire controls and “the state-of-the-art in intelligent systems.” Further details will probably become available once the company’s feasibility study is completed.
If the TF-X turns out to be anything like the Transition, Terrafugia’s first flying car, it will probably be more airplane than automobile. Terrafugia founder and CEO Carl Dietrich envisions the Transition as a practical option for private pilots, who are often left without land transportation when traveling to small, regional airports.
When it lands, the Transition’s wings fold, and its Rotax 912 ULS aircraft engine switches from spinning a rear mounted propellor to driving the rear wheels. It has a cruising speed of 100 mph in the air and 65 mph on the ground. Price of entry is $279,000.
However, Terrafugia seems to have bigger goals in mind for the TF-X than just making life easier for pilots.
“By directly addressing congestion and other transportation challenges currently being faced internationally, widespread adoption of vehicles like the Transition and TF-X could result in significant economic benefits and personal time savings,” the company said in a statement.
The utopian idea of using flying cars to avoid traffic jams has killed many of these projects, so will Terrafugia be any different? It’s hard to say, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to see a VTOL plug-in car-airplane hybrid take off.
Do you think the TF-X has a chance, or should it be called the ‘Icarus?’ Tell us in comments.