Mon, Jun 19, 2017 - Page 14 News List

Firm to sell first flying car next year

AFP, RAAMSDONKSVEER, Netherlands

Dutch company PAL-V International B.V. is poised to start production on what it bills as a world first: a three-wheeled gyrocopter-type vehicle which can carry two people and would be certified for use on the roads and in the skies.

“This kind of dream has been around for 100 years now. When the first airplane was invented people already thought: ‘How can I make that driveable on the road?’” chief marketing officer Markus Hess said.

PAL-V, which stands for “Personal Air and Land Vehicle,” based in Raamsdonksveer, Netherlands, is aiming to deliver its first flying car by the end of next year.

The lucky owner would need both a driving license and a pilot’s license.

However, the owner would be able to drive to an airfield for a short take-off and after landing elsewhere drive to the destination in a “door-to-door” experience.

Final assembly on the PAL-V flying car is to start in October, with the company seeking to be the first to go into commercial production.

The PAL-V uses normal unleaded gasoline for its two 100 horsepower engines and can fly 400km to 500km at an altitude of up to 3,500m.

On the road it has a top speed of about 170kph.

The company expects to produce between 50 and 100 vehicles in 2019, before ramping up to “quite a few hundred” in 2020.

The first edition, the PAL-V Liberty, costs 499,000 euros (US$599,000), while the slightly cheaper PAL-V Liberty Sport has a price tag of 299,000 euros.

Hess defended the hefty price tag.

It is not a lot more than “a super-duper sports car with a few extras,” he said. “Considering the extra certification standards we have to go through for aviation, and that a super-duper sports car can’t even fly, we think it’s actually a bargain.”

PAL-V was founded in 2007 by Robert Dingemanse and pilot John Bakker.

“In the beginning it was, let’s make a gyrocopter drivable,” Hess said.

However, the company, which has 40 to 50 employees, realized the weight and length of a gyrocopter’s blades gave the vehicle a high center of gravity when driving, especially taking corners.

They have designed the car so that at the flick of a button the blades fold down and gather like a bat’s wings on the top.

They have also incorporated into the car a 2005 breakthrough — when the Dutch company Carver Technology B.V. invented a tilting system for three-wheelers — to counter the high center of gravity and make it roadworthy.

The PAL-V is not a helicopter, in which the blades are powered by an engine, the company said.

It is a gyroplane, in which the blades rotate thanks to airflow, it added.

Even if both engines cut out, the blades will still turn, so “even if you go at zero speed it still keeps rotating and you are not going to drop out of the sky,” Hess said.

While he refused to divulge how many orders they have, he said the company “was more than satisfied.”

Clients pay a non-refundable deposit of 10,000 euros to 25,000 euros depending on the model.

A third option is to put 2,500 euros into an escrow account, which secures them a place in the line.

Different versions of a flying car are being developed in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Japan, China and the US.

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