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Friday, March 9, 2018


There are few self-styled “flying cars” that you can actually buy today: Terrafugia’s Transition and AeroMobil are two that immediately leap to mind. The Dutch-made PAL-V Liberty is another that purports to be the first commercially available flying car. A production-version was on-hand at the Geneva Motor Show this week for anyone looking for a break from the onslaught of supercars on display.

Using the term “flying car” to describe whatever this is seems fairly inaccurate. If anything, the PAL-V Liberty seems like a reasonably well-executed cross between a gyrocopter and a three-wheeled, Elio Motors-style vehicle. In other words, more Road Warrior than Blade Runner.
When it’s in road-going mode, it’s around the size of a small car. The vehicle has two separate engines, one for flight and one for the street; at 99 horsepower, which the company claims is enough to push the Liberty to a top road speed of 100 mph. With a tilting suspension and a maximum suggested weight of just one ton, however, it should still be entertaining on a winding road.

The PAL-V Liberty claims to be certified to fly under both the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration, and complies with road safety regulations, too. Naturally, you’ll still need a pilot’s license to fly it (and a driver’s license to drive it), and it needs a small airfield or airstrip to take off and land. It takes between five and 10 minutes to convert from flying to driving mode and vice versa.
Flying cars are having a moment right now, with major companies like Uber, Airbus, and Intel all throwing cash in the hopes of creating an aerial taxi service. But the Liberty doesn’t appear to be designed for any modern “mobility solution.” Rather it’s more of a throwback to what we thought flying cars should look like a decade ago, when we couldn’t conceive of electric motors being powerful enough for flight.
The prototypes that have garnered the most attention, from startups like Lilium, Volocopter, Ehang, and Vahana, have more in common with drones than cars, with autonomous features and multiple rotors powered by electric batteries. If anything, using “flying car” as a designator is passé — most experts in this space hate the phrase — while eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) is the preferred buzzword.

There are two versions of this flying car available for purchase today: the Pioneer version for $599,000, with a “unique” interior and exterior, and the sport edition for $399,000. PAL-V’s executives say that all the remaining certifications will be granted on the basis of the production model they are showing off in Geneva. “Once full certification is granted in 2019,” PAL-V CEO Robert Dingemanse said in a statement, “we will hand over the keys of the PAL-V Liberty to our first customers.”

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