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Ford, ­Mich Study Whether Flying Cars Would Be Better for Environment


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electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or flying car, illustration

A study by Ford and UM on the environmental impact of flying cars finds they could make sense for longer trips.

Credit: Dave Brenner / University of Michigan

While the automotive industry grapples with the complexities of releasing self-driving cars on public roads, researchers at the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. are already looking ahead to a time when roads could be irrelevant.

UM's Center for Sustainable Systems and Ford teamed up to study the environmental impacts of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircrafts—also referred to as VTOLs or flying cars. 

"Role of Flying Cars in Sustainable Mobility," published in Nature Communications, found that these flying electric vehicles, while not suitable for short commutes, could play a "niche role in sustainable mobility for longer trips." Flying cars could also be valuable mobility options for congested cities as part of a ride-share taxi service, the study says.

"With these VTOLs, there is an opportunity to mutually align the sustainability and business cases," says Akshat Kasliwal, one of the authors of the study and a grad student at the UM School for Environment and Sustainability. "Not only is high passenger occupancy better for emissions, it also favors the economics of flying cars."

Researchers found that the potential emissions for "flying cars" was 52 percent lower than that of gas-powered cars and 6 percent lower than battery-electric vehicles on trips of 62 miles (100 kilometers). Because of the immense energy required to get the flying cars off the ground, single-occupant gas-powered cars are more environmentally friendly on trips under 22 miles.

From The Detroit News
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