7 Futuristic Cars Worth Hoping To See On The Road, Or In The Air, Soon
By Aaron Crowe
Flying cars are the norm in science fiction movies. From Luke Skywalker’s Land Speeder that hovered just a foot or so off the ground, to the flying cars in “Blade Runner,” getting around traffic on the ground by going airborne is common in futuristic movies.
But such futuristic cars, and others that don’t perform such stunts as flying, are more than just dreams in films.
Manufacturers from Volkswagen to flying car maker Terrafugia have plans for such cars that go beyond the concept cars that carmakers throw before the public every year to showcase new, radical designs and technology that may or may not make it to the roadway some day.
Don’t expect every futuristic-looking car you see to be available for sale. Some may not go beyond the planning stage because they’re too expensive for consumers, don’t work after more testing, or don’t meet federal safety guidelines.
With our optimist’s glasses on, here are three futuristic cars to look forward to, followed by some that are closer to reality. We can’t say if the manufacturers are going to follow through with production, but it’s fun to at least see what they’re considering:
Volkswagen Hover Car: The company got 119,000 ideas for future VWs when it launched the “People’s Car Project” in China in 2011, leading it to unveil the Hover Car concept vehicle. Watch the video for a fun look at how this wheel-less pod that uses electromagnetic levitation to float just above the road looks in motion.
The hover car has a joystick instead of a steering wheel, auto-pilot function, voice commands and a safety sensor to avoid collisions. It doesn’t use gas and has zero emissions, using magnetic fields as power.
The company admits that its plans for producing the car are still being considered.
Terrafugia’s TF-X flying car: The American company Terrafugia is still developing another flying car called “Transition,” which has wings and takes off at an airport, but the TF-X takes off and lands like a helicopter with tilt-rotors.
Terrafugia says that a megawatt of power is needed to raise the car off the ground, when the rotors will shift forward. A 300 horsepower engine will power it up to 200 mph for an estimated 500 miles, carrying four passengers.
It will have an automatic pilot of sorts in flying mode to avoid collisions, fly in poor weather and automatically land it.
Don’t expect to see these in the air soon. Terrafugia expects development to last eight to 12 years, and to be at the high-end of the luxury car price at $500,000 or more.
Hover vehicles from Aerofex: The California company is working on aerial vehicles that would hover like the speeder bikes in “Return of the Jedi.” They would be as intuitive as riding a bike and could be used to patrol borders without first constructing roads, for example.
Aerofex says on its website that it is “flying a proof-of-concept craft developed as a test-bed of manned and unmanned technologies.” The company’s videos are pretty amazing.
Manned versions aren’t immediately planned, with unmanned drones set as a test platform: heavy-lift robotic machines that could work in agricultural fields, or deliver supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain.
Hovercars are fun to consider, but the reality of futuristic cars will likely be different, says Ed Hellwig, automotive editor at future car specialist at Edmunds.com.
“Although it’s fun to imagine a world full of hover cars that could glide effortlessly over crowded highways, the reality is much more practical,” Hellwig says.
“Cars of the future will likely focus on refining the elements of the cars we drive now, rather than completely revamp the entire experiences,” he says.
Hellwig offers three examples:
Volkswagen XL1: This soon-to-be-produced two-seater takes fuel mileage to the extreme, Hellwig says. It uses an ultra-exotic carbon fiber body to reduce weight and a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain for power. The result is a road going car that can get upwards of 200 mpg.
Toyota i-Road: This two-seat vehicle is a cross between a car and a motorcycle. It combines a very small footprint with an electric drivetrain to create a vehicle that could fit in space that cars couldn’t.
Peugeot Onyx: This supercar concept not only has a hybrid drivetrain, it uses various recyclable materials in its construction, Hellwig says. The felt-lined cockpit is surrounded by a dashboard made from recycled newspaper. It was designed to show that even the most exotic sportscars can still be made environmentally conscious.
And lastly, we have a fun hover car that is being used in the real world by at least one driver: professional golfer Bubba Watson’s hover car. It’s probably the biggest golf car you’ve ever seen, but it travels light and can go across ponds and on greens.
Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.