Toyota’s flying car believes in hydrogen

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As a versatile mobility provider, Toyota is constantly striving to explore new opportunities; It would also conquer the air in 2021, or 2022, for the flying car that has been under development for years. The dream of a flying car is probably the same age as the car itself. However, the idea has never been put into practice, due to two persistent obstacles: the lack of adequate propulsion technology and the need for special training in the operation of flying structures. Even ten years ago, the automotive industry could not provide an effective response to these problems, but now modern, high-performance electric motors and autonomous mobility technologies have created at least the theoretical possibility of making vehicles suitable for both air and road transport a reality.

A published patent record testifies that Toyota is also serious about developing the flying car. The company’s North American Development and Manufacturing Division (TEMA) opted for the simplest possible solution and would use the same propulsion elements on asphalt and air: (using propellers protruding from the rim of the wheel) the wheels themselves would provide the lift necessary for ascent. This makes sense, as if you don’t have to install two separate propulsion systems, the whole vehicle can be simpler and lighter, which is beneficial in terms of flightability, range and reliability. A similar solution was envisioned by the creators of Back to the Future at the time, but in Toyota’s conceptual sketch, the wheels turn into a flying position not around the hub but at a pivot point at the height of the roof, in the same way as when opening a swing door. An important practical advantage of this is that the farther the rotors are from the center of gravity, the more stable it can fly and the more precisely the vehicle can be steered. In the absence of a classic chassis, these arms can also act as a suspension, as in the traditional way the front wheels cannot be steered in this way, driving on asphalt could change the direction of the car by changing the rotational speed of each wheel.

It is too early to say today whether these improvements will be included in this Toyota aircraft. In any case, the company’s developments in autonomous mobility will allow the pilot to leave navigation entirely to the vehicle in the near future – and to do so in two or three dimensions is just a matter of sensor and computing power. There is also no doubt that in the recent past, several automotive players have expressed their intention to build a flying car – perhaps the time for flying cars will indeed come soon. If so, hydrogen fuel cell technology could give Toyota a huge positional advantage in the competition. The battery pack of a conventional electric vehicle already means several glazed ballasts, it takes a long time to charge it, and we can only increase the capacity of the battery to their detriment: a larger battery is legally heavier and slower to charge with the same technology. In contrast, the capacity of a hydrogen tank can be expanded without a significant increase in weight, and it does not take more time to fill than a gasoline or kerosene tank with a similar range.

This is not the first time Toyota has addressed the idea of ​​a flying car, the company decided last year to use its financial and professional resources to support its Cartivator team of Japanese students who set fire to the Olympic flame from a SkyDrive flying car at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. which due to the virus will only be expected this year, 2021. The automaker will contribute 40 million Japanese yen and a team of mechanical engineers to the hoped-for success of the project.


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