Volvo Bets on the Flying Car
Warn George Jetson and Superman to move over. Soon the skies above may have another airborne object—a flying car. Zhejiang Geely Holding Company, the Chinese automotive giant which owns Volvo and Lotus, recently announced its purchase of Terrafugia, the U.S.-based company that is developing two flying cars for mass production. . If the parent company of Volvo is right, vehicles that can both drive the roads or travel through the air will be available for purchase by everyday citizens in the near future.
Terrafugia was founded by four MIT students in 2006 with a vision to bring flying cars out of science-fiction and into reality. It developed its initial prototype by 2009 and plans to offer two models for purchase soon. The first vehicle to be offered will be the Transition. It has retractable wings and requires a runway to take off like a normal plane and has a cruising speed of 100 mph and a range of 400 miles. Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich predicted in 2013 the model’s retail price would be $279,000. The company is so confident of Transitions soon arrival in showrooms that it is taking pre-orders for a modest $10,000 deposit.
The other model, the TF-X, is projected for release in 2023. It differs from Transitions in that it is electric powered with 200 mph cruising speed and a 500-mile range. It also does not require a runway since it is a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle. Finally, it will have a much lower price—perhaps comparable in cost of a luxury car.
Though skeptics might see Geely’s purchase of Terrafugia as a huge gamble, the automotive giant is not alone in its belief in a flying car. Uber, the ride-sharing company, plans to launch a flying taxi service in Dubai, Dallas and Los Angeles by 2020. Some analysts see Geely’s acquisition as a savvy business move to position itself as the leader of the new lucrative field, especially for the company’s home market—the Chinese people who struggle with some of the world’s worst congested streets.
“Look! It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! No, it’s a flying car!” If Geely and Terrafugia are correct, in a few short years, this may be the phrase heard on the streets of the world’s metropolises.