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Terrafugia's flying car project is still a couple of years away

Richard Lawler, @Rjcc
April 21, 2015
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Terrafugia's car/plane hybrid has been "coming soon" for nearly a decade and it will stay that way a bit longer. The Transition vehicle has come a long way since those early renders, and in a talk today Terrafugia COO / VP of Engineering Kevin Colburn explained some of the design decisions involved and what else need to happen before pilots/drivers can climb in. The estimated price seems to have climbed a bit from the $279,000 projection, as he said the company is targeting between $300k and $400k. At that price it's not going to replace your (or anyone's) daily driver, but that's not the point. Terrafugia believes that being able to drive the plane from the airport to one's destination is enough to give it an advantage over other small planes or forms of travel.


The second gen Transition prototypes that first took flight in 2013 have racked up over 100 hours in the air already, and according to Colburn it's not doing flight testing anymore, just focusing on testing the drivetrain. To keep weight down Terrafugia opted for a belt-driven CVT, hooked up to a 4-stroke 4 cylinder, 100hp, 140lb engine that runs on premium unleaded gasoline, not aviation fuel. That's enough power and fuel efficiency to give it about a 450-mile flying range. While NHTSA has classified the Transition as a recreational vehicle (technically it does go off-road, just not in the way that usually means), one of Terrafugia's challenges is getting an exemption so it can be sold as a light sport aircraft.

Despite all those weight saving decisions (and extensive use of carbon fiber in the frame), it still has to be crashworthy as an automobile. It's over the LSA weight limit, and doesn't quite meet the stall speed requirements, but it does pack a full-plane parachute, which Terrafugia says should count for something. Despite those hurdles, parts for the promised third-gen plane are being built now, and the plan is for it to go into production (built in-house in limited quantities, even with just the pre-orders it will be backed up for a while) and have keys handed over to the first owner in two year. That's fine of course, we're just waiting for the Transition to come out so Terrafugia can focus on its planned followup -- the TF-X plug-in hybrid EV that will take off vertically and be able to land itself.


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