|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.