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Industrial Equipment Noise

Tech Wake-Up, Wheels Edition: Flying Cars, Roadworthy Planes, EVs, Internal Combustion, and More

Where Are Our Flying Cars? They’re Here. Almost. Part 1.

IEN’s been covering developments with the Terrafugia Transition Roadable Aircraft for quite awhile now, going back to at least June of 2010. On the ground, it gets 35 mpg on premium, and has a top road speed of 65 mph. In the air, as previously reported, it consumes 5 gal/hr. Both airbags and a parachute are standard equipment. Apparently, the plane, er, car, er—contraption—was quite the hit at the recent New York Auto Show, according to this piece at Autoblog (via Engadget). If you’ve not yet seen the Transition’s transition, here’s a worth-watching vid… 

As Engadget points out, it’s not quite, really, exactly a flying car. Terrafugia reps prefer to refer to the Transition as ‘more of a plane that you can drive’ home, fold-up, and keep in your garage (instead of in a $1,000/mo. rented hangar). On their site (in this press release about the production prototype’s first flight), Terrafugia calls it not a flying car, but a ‘street-legal airplane.’ So, unfortunately, you’re out of luck if you were expecting Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

FAA Light Sport classification means pilot certification in about half the time required for the typical pilot’s license.

Price? You can have one for a mere $279,000, with about a 1-year wait time. So far, the company’s received 100 orders.

Where Are Our Flying Cars? They’re Here. Almost. Part 2.

It seems that the Transition already has some competition in the form of the Sikorsky-esque PAL-V which forsakes folding wings for a rotorcraft approach…


Folded up, the aesthetics nod definitely goes to the Dutch PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) One…


Here’s a clip from the source article at Gizmag (Link added.)…

Flying like a standard gyrocopter, the PAL-V’s main rotor has a slower rotation than a helicopter, making it quieter and giving it the ability to take off and land at lower speeds. The company says it is also easier to control and cannot stall and, even if the engine fails, it can be steered and landed safely as the rotor keeps auto rotating.

Measuring 4(L) x 1.6(W) x 1.6(H) m (13.1 x 5.2 x 5.2 ft), the PAL-V weighs 680 kg (1,499 lb) and can carry a maximum load of 230 kg (507 lb) for a maximum gross weight of 910 kg (2,006 lb). The company says the PAL-V complies with existing regulations in all major markets making it legal for both road and air use. Obtaining a license requires only 20 to 30 hours of training.

(Here’s a link to the PAL-V site.)

On the road, the company says in this video that it ‘drives like a sportscar’… 

Despite its helicopter(ish) appearance, the PAL-V isn’t a VTOL craft; rather, it requires 540 ft. of either pavement or grass for take-off, and 100 ft for landing.

Fuel consumption is rated at 9.5 gal/hr, and the PAL-V’s range is up to 315 miles. Top speed is said to be 112 mph.

The PAL-V-One isn’t as far along the development scale as is the Transition, so price hasn’t yet been announced. The company expects first deliveries to take place in 2014.

My guess? The PAL-V will come in at about $130-150K, considerably less than the Transition and, apparently, it’ll make for a much better on-road experience.

It’ll be interesting to see how this brewing battle of the flying cars develops—and turns out.

How About a Mean, Green, Gull-Winged Time Machine?

The still-in-existence DeLorean Motor Company is shooting for an early next-year release of its new, stainless-bodied, Back to the Future-style DMCev. Notice those lower-cased letters? Right. The new one is an electric vehicle. Here’s a video walkthrough with DMC CEO Stephen Wynne…

I’ve always admired the late John DeLorean who, despite decades of never-ending cocaine jokes, was cleared of all charges in 1984. He was an accomplished engineer, father of the musclecar, leader of Pontiac then Chevrolet, then GM Vice President in 1972. Arrogant playboy? Sure. That was part of the guy’s charm, back when ‘maverick’ meant something.

While I had enormously high hopes for the DMC-12 back in the day, DeLorean was forced into compromises (not completely unlike those of Preston Tucker) that, sadly, made his unique, attractive, and compelling vehicular creation an underpowered, overpriced mess of QC issues once it made it to production. (For a very good article about DeLorean, see this NYT piece.)

Fast forwarding to the new, electric model…


…consider that it downright scoots from 0-60 mph in 4.9 sec with 260 hp, while the original, 130-hp model labored and wheezed along for more than 10 sec. on the same run. While the prototype uses dc tech, a 400V ac induction motor will be swapped into the production model which, according to this article at The Verge, will be manufactured in Houston.

Remember. This sucker’s electrical…

…so it’ll have lots and lots of all-electric torque, to the tune of 360 lb-ft from 0-7,200 rpm.

Price? A cool (estimated) $95,000.

A Few More Interesting Tidbits…

IEN readers know better than pretty much everyone that electric vehicles aren’t just about motors and batteries. Rather, they’re at least as much (or more) about drives, controls, and software.

Check out the open-source Tumanako project which, according to this brief at The Verge

…is aiming to let EV owners tweak the code of their vehicles to provide better control over performance, much like a Linux user can customize their computer. This would be particularly useful for racers—who would be able to push vehicles to their limits by adjusting aspects like torque and speed—but could also have applications for the rest of us. For example, if your kid is getting behind the wheel for the first time, the vehicle's code could be adjusted to make sure they can't drive too fast.

Open-source anything is usually a good thing unless, of course, you’re Apple.

While the DMCev is certainly exciting stuff, I’m not sold on electrics since about 50% of our grid remains coal-fueled, so I wonder if we’re just transferring our open love of gasoline to a darker, more insidious, blind dependence on coal. I’m also not sold on hybrids—too complex and too pricey compared to good ol’ internal combustion.

I’ve been saying for a decade that the IC engine has a lot of green, powerful life left in it and, so far, automakers have been proving that point with very high-efficiency turbocharged 4-cylinders which, in at least a few cases—car for car—pull-off better mpg numbers than hybrids, with better performance.

When there’s boost involved, however, both turbochargers and superchargers have issues. Superchargers? Great stuff: no-lag power from off-idle across the rev range, but high parasitic and heat losses. Turbochargers? Definitely better technology, but sizing can be an engineering nightmare. You can go for either a-bit-higher-than-naturally aspirated performance (which compromises high-rpm breathing and power), or for all-out power (which usually means a big turbo and big turbo lag).

Compound small/large turbos? Good driveability and power compromise, but expensive.

How about a ‘two-in-one’ twin-scroll turbocharger as discussed in this brief at PopSci? (See PopSci for the captions.)…


Result? From just 2.0 liters of displacement, the ‘TwinPower’ BMW setup shown above produces 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque yet achieves—get this—36 mpg highway in a 3 Series.

Internal combustion is dead. Long live internal combustion!

Have a great week…

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