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Concept: Moller International Designs a PHEV with Short Flight Capability

Model of the Autovolantor.

Moller International has completed the design of a 2-passenger sportscar capable of lifting off vertically and flying for about 15 minutes. Called the “autovolantor”, it is designed to function on the road very much like a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) until one gets stuck in traffic. At that point, it can lift off vertically and fly at up to 150 mph for a short distance. Upon landing it can drive on the ground for up to 40 miles or longer using one of its eight Rotapower engines (earlier post) to generate electrical power.

Moller International received a request to design this vehicle from a wealthy foreign businessman who was unable to commute from the city to his country home due to the overcrowded streets of Moscow.

The Company conducted a preliminary analysis and found that a hybrid propulsion system powered by engines and electric motors together with its propriety eight-fan stabilized aircraft design could be blended to create the autovolantor. Scale model wind tunnel testing and further analysis predicted surprisingly good all around performance for the combined car-aircraft.

According to a presentation given by Moller at the SAE Wichita Aviation Technology Congress & Exhibition in August, forward flight qould require 250 hp (186 kW) from the rotary engines, while hovering would require 670 hp (500 kW)—320 hp (239 kW) from the engines, and 350 hp (261 kW) from the electric motors for 90 seconds. Allowing 20% reserve for engine failure, acceleration, and control, installed power is ~800 hp (597 kW) or 320 hp from engines and 480 hp (358 kW) from electric motors for 30 seconds.

Moller spec’d out a lithium-ion battery pack using Altairnano energy and power densities (90 Wh/kg and 5.5 kW/kg, respectively), and concluded that energy requirements could be met with a pack weighing 200 lbs (91 kg).

Total fuel consumption for a 225-mile range (150 mile ground plus 75 mile flight) would be 14.7 gallons—15.3 mpg. Ground range on batteries alone would be 20 miles (assuming 85% discharge.)

The autovolantor has a fuel capacity of 16.5 gallons and a net payload capacity of 375 lbs.

While the cost for developing a prototype was estimated at over $5 million, Moller believes production versions of the autovolantor could be produced for under $250,000 in modest volumes. However, the basic question remains as to how the autovolantor could be used, and whether regulations and licensing would permit its use within major cities around the world.

It seems that it might be practical in some parts of the world, but in our view a roadable aircraft (versus a flying car) is still more practical for the greatest number of people. The autovolantor is technically possible, but flying it in US cities is not going to be politically acceptable until it has been deployed successfully in other roles and environments. Practical or not, it excites the imagination to think about being able to rise vertically out of a traffic jam and just go!

—Dr. Paul Moller, founder and President of Moller International

Moller International was formed in 1983 and is the developer of the roadable four-person Skycar and two-person Neuera aircraft. Both aircraft have demonstrated their ability to takeoff and land vertically by using Moller’s rotary engine designed specifically for compact, high power-to-weight applications.




OK, so it's not using anti-gravity generators, but still it fulfills the old 20th century claim of a flying car in the 21st century. I can now stop whining about that.
And it's a PHEV too! What more can I ask for? Now to figure out how to procure the cash to get one built and certified. Ummm... anyone want to contribute?



After 20 years of promises, this should be taken as a grain of salt. Nothing they have been promising for all this time has happened.

Sweeeeeet. Good old Moller. Not green but damned cool.

Reality Czech

Moller is unrecognized for his real accomplishments: writing science fiction.

P Schager

If he really thinks his previous volantor development work brings him within $5 million from building one, he should ask Hollywood for the money. That's a rather small chunk of the investment in one movie nowadays. (Although they have gotten spoiled with the automaker paying them instead of the other way around. But a real car that makes a big buzz could be different.)

It's surprising, though, that he shows an efficiency on batteries that is not too shabby (almost 3 mi/kWh), yet an efficiency on the ICE which is (15 mpg). A series hybrid should be able to do quite well. It's a lightweight car. I wonder if he has declined to put a clutch on the propulsion fan for the engine that doubles as range extender. (I'd suggest a powder clutch.)

Another possible use to pursue is for emergency vehicles for disasters where the roads are blocked. If it compares well with a helicopter (price, noise, reliability, safety, maintainability), governments could use these. Electric drive and lots of redundancy/fail-soft design is a really good idea for a hovering vehicle. So is getting around while not having to fly except when you need to.

The PHEV mostly-electric design makes it twice as practical to make the engines turbo-diesels; then the fuel could be straight vegetable oil, cold in the tanks. Or in a sponge bladder, preventing mist. Flash point > 300C. That would mean that in a crash, you are very unlikely to crash and burn--just crash and crunch. An all-plane parachute (preferably steerable) and airbags and it should be well survivable. Compare that to a conventional helicopter.

The Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers and the Western States Petroleum Association have adamantly insisted in their campaign that the EV would never fly. Seeing one of these pass over them would be sweet revenge.

Gerald Shields, Seattle, WA

They haven't even got their aircar to full scale testing much less production. Man, folks like Moller and Zap give the "future" a bad name.


I can just imagine they guy taking off in a bumper to bumper jam, flying for a few minutes and then scratching his head for a place to land...

Roger Pham

Sorry, but with the type of power plants described, this vehicle will never get off the ground. With a gas turbine screaming its gut out, may be he can barely hover in ground effect.

But, I have got to tip my hat for Dr. Moller, who has a special inventiveness and skill at creating a fabulous career for himself while using others money. Should team up with George Lucas or Steven Spielberg.

For the busy businessman involved, please buy a bullet-proof FAA-certified Robinson R-22 helicopter at merely $130,000 USD and enjoy his short-time daily commute, while putting the rest of the $5 million the bank, or give it to charity. Dr. Moller already have gotten a lot of investment money and has yet anything to show for it!


Y'all know this machine will fly....
as soon as the work is completed on the anti-gravity power units. ;>)



The costs of owning a helicopter (or any aircraft) significantly dwarf the initial purchase price.

Henry Gibson

Such a serious endeavour to build a Plug-In-Hybrid should use the ZEBRA battery that requires no complicated cooling or cell temperature monitoring in the hottest or coolest temperatures. The weight of a ZEBRA pack and the cells can be lowered with extensive use of aluminum and titanium. High power ZEBRA cells have been built and other designs can work if necessary. The present ZEBRA pack can lift itself and a propulsion system of equal weight 24 miles an hour vertically maximum, and can rise to an altitude of eleven miles if done at a lower speed in two hours to maximize energy from battery. The energy density of completed ZEBRA battery packs is equal to or better than the lithium ones offered with the TH!NK car.

Pescara's oposed piston single cylinder engine should be given serious consideration along with the INNAS NOAX hydraulic engines and motors. Both of which are more reliable with computer control and can burn diesel or pure ethanol with compression ignition.

Serious consideration should be given to the APT OPOC engine, and perhaps a radial version of it. If electricity is involved, then Capstone turbines with air bearings could be considered. MITI has tested a small jet propulsion engine with air bearings.

There was a forgotten experimental military jet with a fan in each wing and one in the nose. The fans were driven by hot gas diverted from the main jet engine. The plane was destroyed by sucking in a cable during a lift test.

A version of this vehicle that can land and float on water and take off again would be very good for servicing offshore oil platforms.

Just get the military to let you have one of these.


Moeller has been hyping his con job flying car for over 2 decades. So now I guess he hopes this rich Ruskie will be foolish enough to fall for this new versiion of his con.


Flying cars never happened because
1. They suck to much fuel and energy, the law of physics dictates that flying is usually going to cost more energy than ground movement.
2. The difficulty in flying compare to driving is litiarlly a whole dimension higher
3. The chances of surviving a flying car crash verses a normal car crash are much lower.
4. How to make a flying vehicle that exceptionally quite enough to land in residential neighborhoods and crowded cities without compliant is still a twinkle in some engineers eye.

We habe flying cars, they are called helicopters, and they are too expensive, too fuel hungry, too noise and too esoteric for the common man to fly.


What a joke, Mrs Moller should take his retirement, his fantasy has just yielded empty promise so far. Shifting from his main focus to this new distraction will not make him more credible I am afraid....Good luck mister Moller...


Moller is a brilliant designer, but practicality is a concept that he has never grasped. Would that we all could design and build our dreams. Every 2-3 years he has a new design and great PR then reality sets in. I wouldnt laugh at him, but neither would I ever consider investing in him.

richard schumacher

The C-cell battery mounts inside the glovebox, for convenience.

Good for Moller! He's managed to suck cash out of some ignorant Russkie oligarch. Now he has to hope that the mark doesn't tumble to it.


Is this a plant to make the green car congress look ridiculous? Is John McCain going to wave this from the podium to show that real solutions are not available?

Will there still be traffic in the future, or will this car fly over urban refugees searching for the last scrap of food in the countryside?


"Wealthy Businessman"? Sure it wasn't Lex Luthor or the Joker?

John Taylor

Jame Bond wants this car in his next movie!

(As for it ever being practical, it isn't, but it is fun, just like the boat-car was)


Great... Now Chevy will have an excuse to delay the volt 20 more years until they can make it fly.

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