Electric VTOL Flying Cars Have a Role With Clean and Efficient Transportation
Electric flying cars can be environmentally cleaner than regular cars in congested cities or places with geographical constraints and as part of a ride-share taxi service. This is based on a study by Ford and the University of Michigan.
VTOLs were competitive for energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in certain scenarios.
The researchers found that for trips of 100 kilometers (62 miles), a fully loaded VTOL carrying a pilot and three passengers had lower greenhouse gas emissions than ground-based cars with an average vehicle occupancy of 1.54. Emissions tied to the VTOL were 52 percent lower than gasoline vehicles and 6 percent lower than battery-electric vehicles.
Electric vehicles and automated driving may contribute to some of those goals but are limited by congestion on existing roadways. VTOLs could potentially overcome some of those limitations by enabling piloted taxi services or other urban and regional aerial travel services.
Airbus, Boeing, Joby Aviation and Lilium and many others are working on flying car VTOL prototypes. One critical efficiency enabler for these aircraft is distributed electric propulsion which involves the use of many small, electrically driven propulsors.
VTOLs are most energy efficient on long trips, when the cruise phase dominates the total flight miles. Anything less than 35 kilometers (22 miles) single-occupant internal-combustion engine vehicles use less energy and produced fewer greenhouse gas emissions than single-occupant VTOLs.