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FLYING CARS ARE HERE! WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
By Stéphanie L. Denis
As a third grader in the 80s I remember vividly my teacher talking about the year 2020 and asking the whole class what we thought it would be like. Among visions of robot butlers, outer space vacations and video phones, everyone thought it would be like in the Jetsons cartoon reruns, we would all get our own flying cars to take us everywhere we please. Well... Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil Founder) did travel to outer space for a vacation, we all have smart phones with Facetime and Skype in our pocket and 2018 will see the launch of the first flying car available to the public in Canada. Welcome to the future!
A small company from Raamsdonksveer Netherlands, PAL-V International B.V., made news this week. As of 2018, the company will put into production a
roadster / chopper car straight of a James Bond film, the Pal-V. The first commercial appearance of this concept was seen in the 2013 Hammacher Schemmler catalog. Unlike the Slovakian Aeromobil that failed initial testing and somewhat similar to another Dutch company's concept the Carver, the Pal-V is the first one that matches safety requirements of most industrial countries.
No need for roads, no need for asphalt, fly over what nature has to offer without disturbing the ecosystem... Asphalt is a by-product of petroleum refinement, no wonder we see it everywhere even if it is not the pavement of choice for longevity in our rude Canadian winters... but this is another story. Just the fact that we have to remove trees to make roads is enough of a disturbance for the environment, even if using an electric car. Canada's road system as of Transport Canada's 2007 overview (TP14816Ep.185), consists of more than 10 422 000 km, 60,1% of it unpaved. For residents of remote locations, the Pal-V might be the ticket to have that secluded country house and still be able to get downtown in time for Monday morning's 8 am meeting at the office. Canadians wasted an average of 79 hours in traffic jams in 2014, the good commuters of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver saw this number increased to 84 hours, but no air traffic jams so far.
We spoke to the official distributor for Canada and the USA Mr. Mark Jennings Bates and here is what he told us: "The Pal-V is very environmentally friendly because roads are optional. The Pal-V uses a gasoline engine because electric engines are too heavy at this time, batteries are a very big part of the problem, and both US FAA and Transport Canada's regulations don't allow for electric engines on helicopter type vehicles." The 2 seater, 3 wheeled roadster made of carbon fiber, titanium and aluminium weighs 1500lbs and can transform into a gyrocopter in less than 10 minutes. When asked about autonomy he answered: "With a full tank you can go about 1300 Km driving in the city or about 3 hours flying time." The 27 gallon tank is paired with a 230hp motor and can safely carry a payload of 507lbs below 4000 feet altitude up to 180 kmh.
The company is still waiting on Transport Canada and the American FAA for final approbation, but the first Pal-V should be available to Canadians by the end of 2018 according to plan. They will not come cheap, the Liberty Sport model starts at $399K US and a special limited edition of 25 vehicles celebrating the launch will come fully equipped at $599K US. Maybe the government will offer subsidies like they did with electric cars to promote eco-friendly vehicles? That remains to be seen... As for security concerns, Mr. Bates answered: "Of course you will need proper pilot and drivers licenses, and we will teach you how to maneuver the Pal-V before purchase which is included in the $25 000 (US$) down payment when you order." It should be mentioned that a runway of 165m and landing strip of 30 m are required to safely fly and land this marvelous toy. We can't wait for the first air traffic jams of the 2020's to happen... Welcome to the future.