Thursday, August 28, 2008

Flying Cars: Up, Up, And Away

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's -- a flying car? Not since the red-lettered, blue bomber buzzed over Metropolis has such a fantasy captured the imagination of so many. In spite of our fascination with the concept, making a vehicle that can be certified by the FAA as airworthy, and can be legally driven on highways, is a complicated task. So complicated in fact, that as much as the idea of a flying car has been around for over half a century, no one has yet to crack through the many blocks in the way of it's advancement. Of course this does not stop many engineers and companies from trying. There are some dedicated and highly resourceful people beginning and in some cases nearing completion on the first consumer available flying car.

How can they possibly work?
A number of companies are developing flying cars, or roadable aircraft, as aficionados call it, that have integrated pieces carried in the vehicle, or modular pieces left at the airport when the car is being driven. Others are looking at Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL).

One very controversial aspect is how the take off and landing will be accomplished. If you don't want to drive to your local airport, you'll need to utilize VTOL, a flight technique used in military aircraft like the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and the British Hawker Harrier Jump Jet. Moller International has a 4-seater SkyCar in the development process, with a FFA airworthy certified model planned in four plus years. Before you'll see one in your driveway, there are still questions to be answered about noise levels, special surface materials for takeoff and landing, and a spate of regulatory issues. These issues are possibly preventing Moller's Sky Car from becoming reality, yet there is mild sense that the world so hung up on cost effective and green transportation just doesn't have the energy or desire to become taken by the vision of the flying car. Perhaps one of the biggest draw backs is the price tag. Moller's precursor to the Sky Car named the Volantor will be close to 100,000 dollars.

Using more traditional flight techniques, some developers are working on folded or retractable wing technology, like Milner Motors and Terrafugia, Ltd., and several manufacturers are looking at producing kit planes as well. Although this does not have the appeal of a Moeller Sky car, it might be a good transitional phase in order to begin to lay the ground work both governmentally and in the wider consumer market for the possibility and reality of flying cars. Despite all the advancement in flying car technology there remains many issues preventing the flying car from "taking off."

In addition to crowded airports and vehicle storage issues, there are also legitimate questions like whether a pilot's license is required, difficulties with shared air space, traffic control, and costs. Most important of all, a focus on innovation rather than green technology may not be acceptable to today's eco-friendly conscious consumer.

About the Author
Andrew Beckers writes about topics that are important to humanity, Learn more about Flying Cars.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Green Concept Cars You Might Be Driving in the Next Five Years

With the price of gas steadily climbing around the country, more and more drivers are looking forward to the next wave of cars that will look great, serve their needs, and save them money at the pump (or take them away from the pump). At auto shows around the country this past year, more and more auto makers were showing concept cars that were green, ones that used little to no gas. Here are a few of those cars that you may be driving in the next five years.

Mazda Nagare
Offering a sleek style and futuristic look, the Mazda Nagare features gull-wing doors that open up to reveal space inside for four passengers, with the driver sitting front and center, and three passengers sitting in the rear lounge style seat. While Mazda hasn't confirmed exactly what type of drive-train will be used on the Nagare, they have said that it could use a hydrogen-powered rotary engine. No time table or production numbers have yet been given for the Nagare, as Mazda is currently using it mostly as a design experiment.

Daihatsu UFE-III
A third generation concept from the Tokyo auto show, the UFE-III features three seats (a 1 + 2 configuration), and an aerodynamic body that is part of the root of its fuel economy. Powered by a diminutive 660cc Atkinson 3 cylinder engine and two electric motors, the UFE-III has a fuel economy of 203 miles per gallon. It's unclear if this car will ever be seen in the United States, but the design and fuel economy are exactly that US drivers are currently looking for.

GM Saab Aero X
Taking a cue from their aviation roots, Saab has created a concept car without traditional doors, instead opting for a canopy opening similar to what one would find on a fighter jet. This two seater is made from lighter materials to help with fuel economy, and uses ethanol instead of standard gasoline to fuel its 400-hp twin turbo V6 engine. No word on when or if this car will ever see production, but more than one car enthusiast is already drooling over the possibility.

Volvo 3CC
Featuring an electric powertrain that can quietly propel the car to a top speed of 85mph, the Volvo 3CC is what many drivers are starting to look forward to - a car that doesn't rely on gasoline. Initially designed with 3 seats (2 in the front, one in the back), the current design is offering a more traditional four seat layout, while maintaining the futuristic look of many concept cars, including upswing doors for easy entrance. Included in this concept car, are added safety features such as steering wheel, instrument panel, and foot pedals that all shift forward during a collision to reduce impact.

Ford Airstream
Taking a page from the classic airstream trailers, the Ford Airstream pays homage with its classic colors and body design, all the while offering a family car for the next century. Powered by an electric fuel cell that gets the equivalent of 41 miles per gallon, the Ford Airstream can travel 25 miles before the fuel cells kick in to recharge the lithium ion batteries that give power to operate the car. With a screen for entertaining and setting the mood inside the car, this is a family vehicle that looks great and is great for the environment. Ford hasn't said whether you'll be able to find this at your local dealership yet (be that a Kansas Ford dealership or someplace in California), but with the demand for family vehicles that are environmentally friendly, be on the lookout for it in the near future.

Toyota FT-HS
A sports car for the next century, the Toyota FT-HS features seating for between two and four passengers (depending on whether or not the roof is retracted), and 400-hp or engine output from its Hybrid Synergy Drive. With a dedicated drivers cockpit that has all of the instruments and readings necessary centered on the driver, this sports car features sleek lines to help reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. Toyota hasn't said when or if the FT-HS will see production, but do keep an eye out for some of its features to start appearing in Scions.

Honda FCX
One of the closer vehicles to seeing production, the Honda FCX features a fuel cell system, but that's only the start of what makes this concept so impressive. Speed sensitive adjusting instrument panels move according to speed to be more effective, biometric systems adjust the mirrors, wheel, and pedals to your settings as you approach the vehicle, and line of sight operated switches allow you to control things like audio and air conditioning without removing your hands from the wheel. All of this, coupled with a spacious interior made from new-age light-weight materials and you have a vehicle that provides 21st century technology and green efficiency into a vehicle that suits the needs of most drivers.

Chevrolet Volt
Looking to see production in 2010, the Chevy Volt drew rave reviews at the most recent car shows due to its design and E-Flex propulsion system that utilizes a combination of plug-in electricity and gasoline to provide a car that can attain an estimated 640 miles on a single tank of gas. All of this on a car that is rumored to range in price from $20,000 to $35,000.
With most people commuting less than 40 miles, Chevy designed the Volt to travel up to 40 miles without using a single drop of gas, and then using gas only to recharge the batteries that actually move the wheels. With space for five and a futuristic design that is both appealing and aerodynamic, the Volt is well on its way to being the first of many vehicles that are environmentally friendly and stylish at the same time.

More to Come
Every year more and more manufacturers are offering concept cars that are stylish, spacious, and fuel efficient to a more and more demanding public. While this is certainly not a comprehensive list of green concept cars, there will certainly be more shown in the years to come.

About the Author
Scott Conklin is the owner of Conklin Cars, a leading provider of Kansas Ford vehicles and Missouri Used Cars with locations Newton, Kansas and Kansas City, MO. They can be found online at: .

related post: FutureCars