Wednesday, Dec 02

Flying cars: The era of air mobility is here

In the 1880s, the first automobile was developed and about two decades later, the Wright brothers in North Carolina invented the first successful airplane. Today, the world is closer to combining these two concepts and the dream of covering smaller distances in vehicles capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) is very much alive.

As Japanese Tech Company, Skydrive Inc. has completed a manned test flight of a “flying car, the dream of using new technologies to rise above the ever-increasing urban-road congestion has gained significant momentum. With more than 250 businesses planning to build, operate, or manufacture urban-air-mobility (UAM) vehicles, all at different stages of development, a growing assortment of industry players is working across the value chain to make this dream a reality.

Intro image

Flying vehicles may smack of science fiction, if not of science fantasy. The aircrafts usually resemble a drone used by hobbyists all over the world. But that is where the similarity ends, as the urban-air-mobility (UAM) vehicles are significantly heavier and require industrial-strength technologies. The flying vehicles will be energy efficient, quiet, environmentally friendly, and eventually pilotless.

To offer sustainable service, flying vehicles need places to take off, land, receive maintenance, charge their batteries and/or refuel their tanks, and park. Complicating the picture, traffic flows are typically unevenly distributed and highly directional. Mornings and evenings see high demand for travel, while demand is low in the middle of the day and nights.

Physical infrastructure will be an important determinant for the size of the addressable market, since the only trips possible are between VTOL ports. If only a few ports are available, flying-vehicle transport could follow a pattern similar to that seen in today’s helicopter market, where the number of potential destinations is limited.

It may be hard to imagine a future in which the air is filled with personal copters and if leaders want to scale the UAM market without facing the limits seen with today’s helicopter transport, they must establish many more ports, as well as more routes among them.

The location of the infrastructure will determine market-conversion levels. The closer a passenger is to a take-off or landing spot, the greater the potential for time savings. If a landing spot is too far away from the origin or destination, the customer might not save enough time for a UAM trip to make sense.

Notwithstanding, here are 5 flying cars we can expect to see in the skies in the near future.

SkyDrive Inc. SD-03

SkyDrive Inc. SD 03

The vehicle is essentially a large quad copter drone that can transport people. Powered by a battery, the flying car when tested, briefly climbed to about 3 meters above the ground before returning to the landing position. A contraption that looked like a slick motorcycle with propellers lifted several feet (1 to 2 meters) off the ground, and circled around slowly in a netted area.

The SD-03 aircraft has one seat and operates with eight motors and two propellers on each corner. It lifted about 3 meters (or about 10 feet) into the air and was operated by a pilot, the company said.

The Japanese company acknowledged that, the flying car can be made into a real-life product by 2023 but making it safe was critical.

 

                                                                           Ehang 184

Ehang 184

Ehang 184 is a personal quadcopter VTOL that is fully automated, totally safe, completely comfortable, and powered via a basic touchscreen interface that anyone can use. EHang AAV uses electric power to reduce environmental harm caused by emission.

The aircraft can be charged by 220V or 380V power supply in 1hour at the fastest. The charging devices can communicate in real time with the aircraft Battery Management System (BMS).

Traditional infrastructure such as large airport or runway is not required, suiting the scenario demands of urban air mobility and serving as an effective way to relieve the current traffic congestion pressures.

 Terrafugia Transition

Terrafugia Transition

The Transition brings the dream of the flying car to life. With retractable wings and wheels, the Transition is a hybrid model designed to be equally at home on the ground and in the skies. Terrafugia allows for a Shift from Park, to Drive and to Fly.

Eliminating the hassle of hangar storage, ground transportation, and aviation fuel, the Transition fuels up with automotive gas and can be stored in your home garage. Leather seats provide comfort and durability while the dashboard serves air and road modes. 

 

                                                                                                            Uber’s VTOL taxis

Uber VTOL taxi

Uber’s taxi project is one of the biggest in the VTOL industry. The company targets 2023 as the year its service will be available commercially. Each plane will be capable of reaching 150mph and will have a range of about 60 miles on non-reserve power when carrying one pilot and four passengers.

Vehicles should operate entirely on battery-electric energy storage with a rapid charging capability (up to 600 kW). Vehicles are expected to charge for less than 7 minutes during 3-hour sprint windows and less than 15 minutes otherwise.

Porsche-Boeing flying taxi

Porsche Boeing flying taxi

German company, Porsche in partnership with Boeing and its subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences are developing a flying taxi with an electric powertrain. This type of contraption does not require a runway like an airplane and operates more like a helicopter propeller forces allow the VTOL to take off from the ground.

However, instead of the propellers usually common with flying taxi concepts, Porsche engineers have gone for an array of ducted fans, with a fixed pair of horizontal fans set forward in the air-foil and another pair of fans set into the trailing edge. Those at the back can swivel at least 90 degrees, providing a range of vertical and horizontal thrust.

Humans are on the verge of a new mobility revolution, resonant of the ones created by the invention of the automobile and the plane. If this becomes successful, it would definitely create a different and possibly faster means of transportation. We are going to benefit a lot as congestion on our roads is reduced and the geographical limitations of ground mobility is overcome.

AUTOS REMODELED FOR 2020

AUTOS REMODELED FOR 2020

Although accounting for less than 10 percent of all vehicles sold globally, the luxury cars market is evidently in a steady expansion which is projected to reach a compound annual growth rate of 11.3% and $178 billion by the year 2023. The U.S. market is still the most important part of that large global puzzle, but both the European and especially the Chinese luxury car markets are in full-on expansion mode.

With model year 2020 being pinpointed as the pivotal year for many important segments (especially crossovers and EVs), it doesn’t come as a surprise that luxury car brands are looking to take advantage of the newfound situation. With the global recession but a distant and unpleasant memory, the German, Japanese, and domestic luxury automakers alike will have one potential headache less to worry about in the upcoming years. The following will be some of the most anticipated and best 2020 luxury autos on the roads.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE

2020 Mercedes Benz GLE

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE, the luxury midsize SUV first known as the M-Class, hasn’t been overhauled in a while, so this fourth-generation redesign is significant boasting a longer wheelbase by 3.2-inches and shorter overhangs at the front and rear, which allow for more interior cabin space and makes for easier clearance should you choose to take this highly capable SUV off-road.

The GLE also features a wider range of options including three suspension options. Base models come with a standard steel spring and damper set up, which is good. The ride is compliant in comfort mode. Switch to sport mode and while its stiffer, Mercedes doesn’t wander into track monster territory here. Then there’s the available Airmatic suspension, which ups the comfort ante.

However, the star is Mercedes-Benz GLE’s all-new intelligent electric suspension called E-Active Body Control. Springs and dampers can be controlled individually at each wheel making it completely customizable for whatever situation you find yourself in, and get this, it can even bounce the vehicle up and down to free the GLE if it gets stuck in sand. Active Body Control virtually eliminates body roll, stabilizing the chassis in a way that conventional suspension systems have yet to achieve.

Under the hood are two available engine options, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo available in the GLE 350 that makes 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque, but the 450 has a 3.0-liter inline-six supercharged with EQ boost that churns out 362-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and this new powerplant would be the engine of choice.

That new, smooth inline-six uses a 48-volt electric motor that eliminates all the belts in the engine, water pump, air conditioning and alternator, making it far more efficient. An Integrated Starter Generator now acts as the alternator allowing for improved energy recuperation and adding a boost of power feature that provides up to 21 additional horsepower when called for. This kick, while little, instrumentally helps minimize turbo lag. All this to say, that this big boy is quick, and according to Mercedes-Benz makes 0-60 in an estimated 5.5 seconds. Oh, what a sound that engine makes when it’s getting there, too. The straight six growls and chortles in low tones and if you want more it can be artificially amplified through the GLE’s Burmester speakers. Both engines are mated to Mercedes’ excellent 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission that offers smooth shifts with well-balanced ratios.

The exterior sees some vast improvements as well. The Mercedes GLE is more aerodynamically designed and adds front hood character lines that give it shape. The front fascia is more aggressive looking, with an SL-style grille and massive air intakes completing the finished look. Gone is the indistinct back side and liftgate. Now a focal point of slim LED-taillights and sculpted hind quarters make for a more athletic rear. The GLE’s definitely now has a more defined and distinctive look.

Thanks to that extended wheelbase, legroom in the second row feels capacious compared to the previous generation. There’s also an optional all-electronically operated third row of seats. With all seats folded the cargo floor lays flat and offers plentiful space, about 73-cubic feet.

In such a competitive segment, Mercedes Benz needed a showstopper with this one, and they brought down the house. No doubt fellow Germans the BMW X5, the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne will do something to counter, but the upgrades and innovations Mercedes brings to the luxury SUV segment that the M-Class helped to create should keep the GLE bouncing around its competition nicely.

2020 Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6

After introducing the intermediate XT5 in 2017 and compact XT4 in 2018, the luxury GM brand has now switched its focus to the all-new XT6 crossover/SUV which slots right between the mentioned XT5 and the brand’s flagship model Escalade. The all-new XT6 three-row model completes their crossover/SUV lineup for the time being and gives the most luxurious American brand a model to fight the likes of the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS Class.

The newest addition to the Cadillac lineup features all of the contemporary tech and amenity features found in other range-topping Cadillacs. One of them is the company’s newly-developed Super Cruise hands-free driving system which was previously only available with the CTS. The Super Cruise won’t be available from the get-go, though.

When it finally arrives, Cadillac’s answer to Tesla’s Autopilot will come at a price, however. Not only will it command a $2,500 premium, but it’ll also be exclusively offered with the range-topping Platinum trim and upper mid-range Premium Luxury trim with the optional $3,100 driver assist package included.

2020 Porsche Taycan

2020 Porsche Taycan

Five years after the Mission E concept saw the light of day at the 2015 Frankfurt show, the Germans have finally revealed a production-ready form of their first EV ever and are charging it to the game. The final product is, however, called the Taycan instead, which translates to a “lively young horse” from Eurasian dialect. Although the new name leaves a lot to be desired, it also makes perfect sense considering it depicts the German automaker’s crest in the best possible way. The upcoming Porsche Taycan EV has instantly become one of the best 2020 luxury cars regardless of what the opposition thinks of that. This electric sports car with its graceful Porsche styling, extreme performance, and exquisite driving dynamics simply can’t be depicted any differently.

Similar to the Panamera in many ways, the 4-door sedan, however, rides on a platform of its own– distancing it from the oddball Porsche executive car. Its prices too are slightly higher as the entry-level Porsche Taycan 4S starts from $104,000. What’s more, the most powerful Taycan Turbo S can’t be obtained for anything less than $187,000. And that’s prior to extras. The highly-advanced powertrain consisting of two electric motors from the three-times Le Mans-winning 919 LMP1 hybrid and a large battery pack that enables the most powerful of Taycans to hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 2.6 seconds.

Buyers get to choose, however, from three different power outputs. The 2020 Porsche Taycan is available in 522 hp, 563 hp, and 616 hp forms. It also offers two different battery pack capacities – one with 79.2-kWh and another with 93.4-kWh.

Finally, the Germans have also developed their own ultra-fast 800-volt charging network which should be able to provide as much as 250 miles of range within 15 minutes. Of course, most people will have to settle for 400-volt superchargers or household units that are much slower but also cheaper and more widespread.

The Jaguar F-Type

The Jaguar F Type

The F-type receives a significant makeover that includes an edgier new look and numerous other enhancements. Its powertrain roster is reshuffled rather than updated. It now only offers a 380-hp supercharged V-6 and a 575-hp supercharged V-8. The base 296-hp turbocharged four-cylinder continues as the entry-level engine.  The Jaguar F-Type is a luxury sports car that’s offered in coupe and convertible body styles with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the F-type maintains a driver-centric design that's accentuated with a mix of racy and rich materials. These include stitched surfaces, faux-suede accents, and chrome trim. Fancier models will offer even better interior appointments that include aluminum pieces, embossing, and more faux-suede coverings.

Two differently styled seats are available and can be upgraded with heated and cooled surfaces. We'd expect the F-type's excellent driving position to carry over as well, and the driver will now face a large 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster. Unfortunately, the coupe and convertible's notoriously tight cabin and hilariously small trunk will also remain. All engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Competitors include the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG GT. Every 2020 F-type features a 10.0-inch touchscreen that supports the company's InControl Touch Pro infotainment software. While we've found previous iterations of this interface to be glitchy, we won't know how the latest version operates until we test it. Still, popular content such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are standard. Users should also expect a premium audio system, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless phone charging to be optional.

It will suffice to conclude that there are exciting times ahead for the automobile industry. The automotive industry is definitely heading into an interesting direction with crossovers steadily taking the reign. Furthermore, every automaker worth its salt has already started implementing an electrification strategy that should start bearing fruit come 2020 and we are here for it.

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