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Author Topic: Moller's M400 Skycar - The future is here!  (Read 18381 times)

innovator

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Moller's M400 Skycar - The future is here!
« on: January 17, 2010, 03:14:34 AM »

Dr. Paul Moller
Dr. Paul Moller

Traffic jams - a thing of the past?  Not a dream anymore…

In 1940, Henry Ford, Chairman, Ford Motor Company said: "Mark my word: A combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile. But it will come…" And now it’s here, as he predicted… the ideal car…not yet for sale, but soon. It’s not a Star Trek gadget, it’s the new Moller Skycar, M400.

The Moller Skycar is a prototype personal VTOL(vertical take-off and landing) aircraft a flying car called a "volantor" by its inventor Paul Moller who has been attempting to develop such vehicles for many years. The design calls for four ducted fans - the propellors being covered - which is safer and more efficient at low speeds.

Description

M400 Skycar
M400 Skycar
The craft said to be currently under development, the M400, is purported to ultimately transport four people; single-seat up to six-seat variations are also planned,It is described as a car since it is aimed at being a popular means of transport for anyone who can drive, incorporating automated flight controls. It is proposed that in a model for the general public, the driver may only input direction and speed. Piloting knowledge would be unnecessary. The Skycar might use a system like the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) in 3D "crowded" airspaces.

Further, developers claim that by using eight inexpensive Wankel rotary engines - compared to jet engines, the vehicle's price may eventually fall close to that of a luxury car ($100,000), even if at the moment the price for the first units is expected to be close to USD$1 million.

Its proposed features would include approximately 305 mph (491 km/h) cruise speed, 360 mph (579 km/h) maximum speed, max. altitude 10.8 km, ascend speed 1.4 km/minute, max. payload 340 kg, max. take off weight 1088 kg, more than 8.5 km/liter (20 mpg) (bio)ethanol, eight redundant, low-emission Wankel engines for safety, residential garage size, a parachute for the whole machine and road capability for short distances (to be driven to a vertiport). The fuel mileage is claimed to be similar to that of a big car, but despite potentially shorter routes and less queuing, this is widely viewed as unrealistic. Operation of a Skycar "will only produce as much noise as traffic on a nearby freeway" when taking off, and "This will only last for a few seconds, because it climbs so quickly."

Skycar Collection
Skycar Collection
A smaller version of the low-emissions Wankel engine from the M400 was slated for the Moller M200X, and these engines run on a mixture of 70% (bio)ethanol and 30% water. Earlier models used gasoline. The ethanol/water fuel mixture makes the fuel almost totally non-flammable outside the engines, which dramatically lowers the fire hazard. The water cools the engines, with a higher usable compression and the result is better performing engines than with 100% ethanol. The mixture makes the engine pollution lower than the California strict SULEV standard (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle). Even with pure ethanol the engines fulfills the SULEV standard.  The proposed Autovolantor model of the vehicle has an all-electric version powered by Altairnano batteries.

Hovering
Hovering
The Skycar demonstrated limited tethered flight capability in 2003. Scheduled tethered flight tests, which were to occur in mid-2006, were apparently canceled. Moller upgraded the Skycar's engines in 2007, and the improved prototype is now called the "M400X". Additional flight tests are supposedly to be conducted once Moller engineers have completed the upgrades to the Skycar's nacelles with the larger engines. Recently, the skycar has gone through several permutations after wind testing. The wind testing has allowed the engineers of Moller International to actually provide safer landings and improve ground stability. According to recent articles in the media, a prototype is supposed to be flying in 2012, with certified versions "a few years later".

Moller International's website claims "only $100 Million has been spent in R & D at Moller International". Discovery Channel's MythBusters has reported that more than 200 million US dollars have gone into the overall development of the Skycar.

Criticism

The only demonstrations approaching flight have been hover tests performed by a Skycar prototype that for insurance reasons was tethered to a crane. The ongoing failure of the Moller company to actually fly an M400 led the National Post to characterize the Skycar as a 'failure', and to describe the Moller company as "no longer believable enough to gain investors".

Presales

Diagram
Diagram
Moller International had been taking refundable deposits on the M400 since 2003. Refund conditions included failure to meet rated performance or failure to obtain US FAA flight certification by December 31, 2005. Since 2003, Moller has slipped the date for FAA flight certification one year each year. As of 2007, Moller's claimed date for FAA certification stood at December 31, 2008.

As of August 13, 2008, the Moller website indicates that they are "currently not taking deposits on aircraft".

There are recent indications that Moller International is unable to refund deposits put down on M400s.

In October 2006, Moller attempted to auction the only prototype of its M400 model on eBay. It failed to sell. The highest bid was $3,000,100; Dr. Moller reported at the annual meeting of stockholders on October 21, 2006 in Davis, California that the reserve price had been $3,500,000. A previous attempt in 2003 to sell the M400 via eBay was also unsuccessful.

Given the machine's very protracted development and its ambitiousness, skepticism that the machine will work as claimed remains high.

In 2007, Moller announced that the M200G Volantor a precursor to the Moller Skycar, capable of hovering 10 feet above the ground and traveling up to 50 MPH, would hopefully be on the market in the United States by early 2008. Depending on demand, Moller says, the M200G Volantor could cost under $100,000.

SEC complaint

In 2003, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Moller for civil fraud (Securities And Exchange Commission v. Moller International, Inc., and Paul S. Moller, Defendants) in connection with the sale of unregistered stock, and for making unsubstantiated claims about the performance of the Skycar. Moller settled this lawsuit by agreeing to a permanent injunction and paying $50,000. In the words of the SEC complaint, "As of late 2002, MI's approximately 40 years' of development has resulted in a prototype Skycar capable of hovering about fifteen feet above the ground."
« Last Edit: January 17, 2010, 03:29:11 AM by innovator »
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