Moller M400 Skycar

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Skycar M400
Role Flying car (aircraft)
Manufacturer Moller International
Designer Paul Moller
Status Under development
Unit cost
US$500,000 (estimated)[1]
Moller Skycar M400
A poster advertising the Skycar

The Moller Skycar is a prototype personal VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft – a "flying car" – invented by Paul Moller who has been attempting to develop such vehicles for fifty years.[2]

Description[edit]

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.[3] 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, with the driver only inputting direction and speed required.

After forty years and $100,000,000 in expenditure[4] the Skycar demonstrated limited tethered hovering capability in 2003.[5] No subsequent testing has occurred, although public demonstrations have been announced and then cancelled.[6] It has been extensively marketed for pre-order sale since the 1990s as Moller attempted to raise more money for 'development' but fifty years on is often cited as a real world example of physical product vaporware.

In April 2009, the National Post characterized the Moller M400 Skycar as a 'failure', and described the Moller company as "no longer believable enough to gain investors".[7] On May 18, 2009, Dr. Moller has filed for personal protection under the Chapter 11 reorganization provisions of the federal bankruptcy law[8] and it is unknown how this will impact the fate of his ideas; Moller International itself did not file for bankruptcy but reduced operations.[9]

Operation[edit]

A Skycar is not piloted like a traditional fixed wing airplane, and has only two hand-operated controls, which the pilot uses to inform the computer control system of the desired flight maneuvers.[10] The Skycar's ducted fans deflect air vertically for takeoff and horizontally for forward flight. The ducted fans also encase the propellers, which prevents bystanders from being exposed to moving blades as well as improving aerodynamic efficiency at low speeds.

Rotapower engines[edit]

The engines to be used are being developed by a separate Moller company called Freedom Motors.[11] They are Wankel engines they call "Rotapower" which have a direct drive to a propulsion fan.[12][13] Each fan is contained in Kevlar-lined housings with intake screens to provide protection to bystanders.[12] The Skycar has four engine nacelles, each with two computer-controlled Rotapower engines. All eight engines operate independently and, as demonstrated in during a tethered flight, will allow for a vertical controlled landing should any one fail.[12]

The Rotapower Wankel engine announced by Freedom Motors has the claimed ability to operate on any fuel.[13] Earlier Rotapower models used gasoline.

On November 1, 2013 Moller announced that the 530cc Rotapower engine had achieved 102 horsepower using alcohol (ethanol) on their test stand, yielding an effective 3 horsepower per pound of weight.[14]

Despite announcements since 2001[15] the Rotapower engine has never been produced as a product. In 2009, Moller claimed to have a backlog of 900,000 orders for the engine, but those claimed units were never manufactured.[16]

Variants[edit]

Moller M150 Skycar
The initial single seat technology demonstrator, incorporating the fuselage of a Bede BD-5 with two of Moller's ducted fan propulsor units. Prototype only; never flown.
Moller M400 Skycar
The prototype version powered by four Moller propulsors incorporating Rotapower 500 wankel rotary engines; has flown several times to date without a pilot but tethered via slack safety line to an overhead crane
Moller 400 Skycar
Production version; unbuilt.
Moller 100LS and 200LS
Proposed 1-and-2 seat volantor air vehicles, similar to the 400 Skycar
Moller Neuera
"Flying Saucer"-type volantor with 2 seats; has flown several times with a pilot but tethered via slack safety line to an overhead crane. This volantor is meant to operate in ground effect only

Specifications (M400X Skycar)[edit]

Data from [17]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 3
  • Length: 19 ft 6 in (5.9 m)
  • Wingspan: 8 ft 6 in (2.6 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 6 in (2.3 m)
  • Empty weight: 2,400 lb (1,088 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Rotapower 500 Wankel rotary engines, 180 hp (134 kW) each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 330 mph (531 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 305 mph (491 km/h)
  • Service ceiling: 36,000 ft (10,973 m)
  • Rate of climb: 4,800 ft/min (24.38 m/s)

Criticism[edit]

The only flight demonstrations have been hover tests performed in 2003 by a Skycar prototype that for insurance reasons was tethered to a crane.[18] The ongoing failure of the Moller company to actually fly an M400 led the National Post to characterize the Skycar as a 'failure'.[19]

Although the physics behind the Skycar design is rarely criticized, the management of the company and the inability to bring a product to market draws the most ire from commentators.[7]

Auction[edit]

In October 2006, Moller attempted to auction the only prototype of its M200X model on eBay. It failed to sell. The highest bid was $3,000,100; Moller reported at the annual meeting of stockholders on October 21, 2006 in Davis, California, that the reserve price had been $3,500,000.[20] A previous attempt in 2003 to sell the M400 via eBay was also unsuccessful.[21]

SEC complaint[edit]

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, even though Moller's statements had passed the review and received "cleared comments" from the SEC during the filing and public information phase prior to being listed as a publicly traded company. Without admitting any wrongdoing, Moller agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the matter quickly so as not to delay the initial public offering of the stock.[22] In the words of the SEC complaint, "As of late 2002, MI's approximately 40 years' [sic] of development has resulted in a prototype Skycar capable of hovering about fifteen feet above the ground."[22] The shareholders of Moller International banded together to form a group known as "Shareholders of Moller International ("SoMI"),[23]

Joint venture[edit]

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in January 2013 between Moller International and a US-China and e-business network agreeing to the goal of developing production for Moller Skycars in the United States and the People's Republic of China.[24]

Crowdfunding campaign[edit]

On November 5, 2013 Moller kicked off a crowdfunding campaign with an official announcement on the Happening Now program on Fox News Channel in the US. He subsequently followed the broadcast announcement with a press release and a radio-broadcast announcement on the Coast to Coast AM radio program with host John B. Wells interviewing Moller for 2 hours.

The campaign was formulated to raise money to further develop the systems to fly the Skycar without a tether and with a pilot on-board - something that Moller had yet to accomplish with the flights that had been conducted to date with the M400X prototype vehicle. Moller launched a donation-only crowdfunding campaign - not subject to SEC scrutiny - and promised to provide gifts and other items to donors, included a ride in the M400X as the top gift of the campaign. The Moller crowdfunding campaign ended on January 4, 2014 and raised a total of US$29,429.00 from 188 funders, far short of its $950,000 goal.[25]

Notable appearances in media[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What a way to fly! Avoid the traffic with a Skycar". Daily Mail Online. November 24, 2008. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  2. ^ Paul Moller and his flying car
  3. ^ Interview with Paul Moller about future cars (August 3, 2007)
  4. ^ option=com_content&view=article&id=78&Itemid=93#4.2 M400 Skycar FAQ - Moller International
  5. ^ Skycar tethered test
  6. ^ MarketWatch.com
  7. ^ a b "Flying cars"; National Post, April 9, 2009
  8. ^ "MI Financial Statements"
  9. ^ Page, Lewis (2009-11-23). "Moller Skycar to finally crash and burn?". The Register. 
  10. ^ Operation
  11. ^ Freedom Motors
  12. ^ a b c "The Skycar Volantor" (PDF). Moller International. January 14, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  13. ^ a b Rotapower Engine Technology
  14. ^ Moller’s Skycar® Rotary Engine Proves Ability To Produce 3 Horsepower Per Pound. 1 November 2014.
  15. ^ "A Powerful New Engine". NASA Spinoff. 2001. 
  16. ^ Hendler, Jason (2010-01-09). "Will Moller International / Freedom Motors Ever Produce the Rotapower Rotary Engine?". 
  17. ^ "M400X Skycar Specs". Moller International. 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  18. ^ Test
  19. ^ Grainger, David; "Flying cars"; National Post, April 11, 2009
  20. ^ "eBay Watch: Moller M400X Skycar prototype" from MotorAuthority.com
  21. ^ "The Skycar: Transportation of the Future" from official Moller website (PDF file)
  22. ^ a b Securities And Exchange Commission v. Moller International, Inc., and Paul S. Moller, Defendants from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website
  23. ^ Shareholders of Moller International website
  24. ^ "Skycar® developer, Moller International, Signs MOU with US-based Firm". January 23, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-17.  from eAthenaTech.com
  25. ^ "Moller launches crowdfunding campaign for Skycar test flight". Fox News. November 5, 2013. 

External links[edit]