I can remember drooling over the Moller SkyCar since the first time I saw renderings of it on the pages of Popular Science or Popular Mechanics decades ago. The thought of being able to hop into a machine that would lift off from your own driveway and zip you to your destination at speeds around 300 mph, far above traffic… What a wonderful thing that would be! A vehicle that is able to perform like a high-performance airplane, but as easy to drive as a car.
Yesterday evening I at long last took possession of a Moller M400 SkyCar. It’s true! You would think my joy would be complete, but given the fact that what I’ve got is only a toy…
Yes, it’s just a HotWings diecast model of the SkyCar. Not very fulfilling, but still not a bad deal for $1.98 at Target!
The dream that is the Moller SkyCar remains just that; a dream. Since the idea was first introduced, the SkyCar’s inventor, Paul Moller, has failed to deliver a single working prototype of the SkyCar. That combined with Moller’s readiness to accept deposits from hopeful SkyCar buyers has led to accusations that the whole thing is a scam. Moller seems to put out a press release and make a big splash every now & then, which some say coincided with a need to generate some cash or deflect heat he’s getting from investors or government regulators. Part of me believes that to be true, but the more likely case is that Paul Moller is simply trying very hard to make his dream come true — he just doesn’t have the where-with-all to make it happen. The really unfortunate part is that he’s spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million in the process, much of that coming from those hopeful investors, who won’t likely live to see any fruit from their investment.
The company is publicly traded, and while looking at their trading info I was surprised to see a recent Yahoo Finance story on Moller dated just a few days back; apparently the company is “in the process of completing its fourth M200 “Jetson” volantor airframe. It expects to complete forty of these fly-by-wire, multi-engine flying vehicles in 2009.” The M200 is vastly different from the M400 SkyCar; it more closely resembles a flying saucer, using multiple ducted fans around the single seat to provide lift and directional thrust vectoring. The M200G is limited to ground-effect flight at a mere 10 feet above the ground. (after a little more digging, the Yahoo story seems to be a rehash of a press release that got much broader coverage back in July. Nothing new.)
The design of the SkyCar seems to have morphed a bit over the years; the rotating ducted fan nacelles on stubby wings you see on the early renderings and on the diecast toy seem have been replaced by what looks to be fixed nacelles with thrust vectoring vanes, no forward wing, and a much larger rear wing. Some images I’ve seen show the rear wing folding up and over the rear engines, probably so it can fit in a garage (suppressed chortle).
The SkyCar always has been a really, really cool idea, but I’m afraid the technology to make it work just hasn’t arrived yet. Engines powerful enough to get a vehicle, passengers & payload off the ground are too heavy to make something like the SkyCar practical, and fuel will I won’t get to fully realize my dream, but maybe my kids, or their kids, will.