Skycars are Finally Here: The use of sour gas as a next generation fuel supply

I’ve been saying it for many years and now it’s here, Skycars are a reality.  As many know I have been a fan of the great work that Paul Moller has been doing with his M400 Skycar for many years, well before drone technology changed the marketplace.  Paul Moller was there first, and I’ve been writing about him for decades.  People who listened to me and bought stock in some of these skycar companies are going to become very rich.  So the next time I tell you something—be sure to listen.  Fortunately for Paul his technology has evolved into the engine design at Freedom Motors which will eventually be the go to power plant for all these other skycar companies that are essentially taking the drone concept to the mass transit market.   The Freedom Motors engines are small, durable and extremely powerful making them ideal for the emerging skycar market.  As things stand now the first skycars are going to be of the single seat electric variety—which won’t run long per charge.  Eventually as the public gets used to the idea the fuel of choice will be sour gas which is a byproduct of landfills.  This is an extraordinary opportunity and will open up a new market completely by turning garbage literally into a usable, viable technology.

As much as I hate to say it, but I’ve told you this too dear reader, China is about to unleash its Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) over Dubai this month (July 2017).   The craft is called the EHANG184 and is capable of carrying a single human being through the air to the destination of their choice.   It is essentially a large drone that you could otherwise purchase at Best Buy.  The drawback is the large open blades that could easily slice into people as they come and go from the craft, but it’s a start.  It won’t take long for people to begin using these craft to get across the city instead of using a taxi.  Using the air of cities to take the pressure off ground traffic is the solution of the future for transportation, and it’s been like that for a long time.  The key issue that needed to be worked out was GPS navigation and altitude reasoning within 3D space, and the reliability of the power plants to use multi speed function to make subtle adjustments to pitch, and roll to maintain precise directional control.  Now that the drone market has opened people up to the idea of stable flight, they are ready to ride them and Dubai will be the first.

But that’s just the beginning, Italdesign and Airbus have unveiled the Pop.Up, a trailblazing modular ground and air passenger concept vehicle system.  During the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, Italdesign and Airbus world- premiered Pop.Up, the first modular, fully electric, zero emission concept vehicle system designed to relieve traffic congestion in crowded megacities. Pop.Up envisages a modular system for multi-modal transportation that makes full use of both ground and airspace.

Pop.Up System consists of a three layers concept: – an Artificial Intelligence platform that, based on its user knowledge, manages the travel complexity offering alternative usage scenarios and assuring a seamless travel experience; – a vehicle shaped as a passenger capsule designed to be coupled with two different and independent electric propelled modules, the ground module and the air module. Other public means of transportation (e.g. trains or hyperloops) could also integrate the Pop.Up capsule; – an interface module that dialogues with users in a fully virtual environment.

The Pop.Up vehicle combines the flexibility of a small two-seater ground vehicle with the freedom and speed of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle, thus bridging the automotive and aerospace domains.

At the heart of the concept is a capsule: designed to accommodate passengers. This high-tech, monocoque carbon-fibre cocoon measures 2.6 metres long, 1.4 metres high, and 1.5 metres wide. The capsule transforms itself into a city car by simply coupling to the ground module, which features a carbon-fibre chassis and is battery-powered.

For megacity journeys with high congested traffic, the capsule disconnects from the ground module and is carried by a 5 by 4.4 metre air module propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors. In this configuration, Pop.Up becomes an urban self-piloted air vehicle, taking advantage of the third dimension to get from A to B efficiently whilst avoiding traffic congestion on the ground.

Once passengers reach their destination, the air and ground modules with the capsule autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers.

That Airbus design is kind of a level two-phase, the final phase will be personal transportation vehicles that come and go from your driveway and it is there that the M400 style of vehicles will make their mark and it will be the small, but extremely powerful Freedom Motors which power them.  The previous versions will still be in use around the cities, those of the Pop Up and the Italdesign, but the future will be with Freedom Motors and the M400.  There will of course be other manufacturers besides Moller International, but those Freedom Motor engines running off multiple types of fuel are the keys to the skycar market success.  Electric power will always have its sustainable drawbacks for long flights—anything over 30 minutes, but the use of sour gas is a phenomenal new market opportunity that could easily fill our skys with personal transportation allowing us to get around the world far more cheaply and independently.

As space opens up and the commercial business of flying from spaceports to job opportunities in orbit and on the moon increase, ground based flying—relative to the horizon of the earth—will become normal.   Driving in cars and trucks on our roadways will still be relevant, but it will be much less desirable as these skyway options open up.  There just isn’t any reason to be stuck on a highway in traffic wasting all that productive time.  As human beings, we have many more important things that we could be doing.  While the electric cars being done by Tesla are impressive, the technology being developed by them will essentially launch the new generation of skycar technology which will change transportation forever.   Once we go there, we’ll never return to strictly ground based systems.   They are too slow and too inefficient.

But the time is now.  We are in the age of personal air transportation and it’s about time.   In the 90s I pitched the skycar concept to everyone I ran into.  I tried to get delivery companies to use the M400 Skycar to replace FedEx vans and UPS—but the engines were not yet stable enough and the governments of the world were way too slow to accept something so new and fresh.  I even included the M400 in several of my published works such as The Symposium of Justice (2004) and my Curse of Fort Seven Mile series—(2015) just to get people to start thinking of the viability of skycar technology. So finally, it’s here—not the way I’d like it to be—the United States should have been the first to use it but due to our overly aggressive regulatory environment we can hardly fly a paper airplane anymore—so Dubai is doing it first.  We’ll of course follow the world from America even though Paul Moller is a good California inventor who essentially was 40 years ahead of the rest of the world.  What really matters is that it’s finally happening and we will all be a lot better off because of it.

Rich Hoffman

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