The energy requirement of a flying car

One study compared the energy demand of a futuristic mode of transport with that of conventional driving. Interesting results have been achieved.

Experts at the University of Michigan and Ford were wondering how a realistic option in the not-too-distant future could be to replace traditional cars with flying cars known from the Jetson family for general transportation purposes. Researchers focused mostly on one area, the amount of energy used.

The material, also published in Nature magazine, compared the consumption of flying cars, which still existed only as prototypes, to the energy needs of petrol and electric cars. Electric devices, officially called vertical takeoff and landing aircrafts (VTOL), consume their batteries with completely different dynamics than a normal car. Take-off requires a lot of energy, but aviation itself is already very economical.

Because of the above, it is not surprising that after playing the various equations, it turned out that in the short run it is by no means possible to think of VTOL as a meaningful option. Even within a city or even an agglomeration, the technology doesn’t seem to pay off, as even a gasoline car performs better over a 35-kilometer journey, not to mention electric.

From this point on, however, aviation begins to become more efficient and the gap between the various transport solutions gradually narrows. For a 100km journey, for example, a VTOL is on average 52 percent more efficient than a gasoline car, but it even outperforms electric motorized surface carriages by 6 percent.

The findings are undoubtedly interesting, but it is worth adding that the study attempted to compare a technology that is still in an experimental phase with existing solutions. Thus, the data required for the performance of VTOL were requested by the companies working on such vehicles and calculated according to them. There is no shortage of flying car developers anyway, without claiming to be exhaustive, it has been rumored that NASA and Uber, Audi and Airbus, Google founder Larry Page startup, China’s Ehang, or Boeing are trying to do something like this.

In addition to the limited and not necessarily accurate data, a further shortcoming of the study is that it does not take into account other important factors of transport, such as the total cost of production and operation. It is also an interesting question to see how all this relates to traditional modes of transport such as rail or bus.

Of course, flying taxis will not necessarily have to rust empty either, as both the special experience and the speed can be attractive, just more than likely that all of this will remain the prerogative of the richest for a long time to come. Nevertheless, the authors of the study were optimistic. It is also considered a great achievement that, under certain circumstances, a flying car could have been the most environmentally friendly solution. And when properly loaded with passengers, “jetsoning” can be a realistic alternative for even broader strata when traveling between cities for a few hundred kilometers.

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