Terrafugia achieved widespread publicity after its first aircraft in 2009; the fixed-wing Terrafugia Transition is “the world’s first practical flying car” and the company is now ramping up for production.
In May 2013, Terrafugia unveiled its vision for a four-seat VTOL plug-in hybrid-electric flying car, calling it the TF-X. The company revised the outer mold line (OML) in July 2015, steering the design away from the “open-grill” appearance of the Transition; a one-tenth scale wind tunnel test model of the TF-X, based on the new OML, was displayed that month at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In late 2015, Terrafugia received a Section 333 exemption from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin to flight test a one-tenth scale TF-X vehicle (approximately 2 ft, or 60 cm, long). An exemption from the FAA was necessary at that time in order to conduct commercial research and development flying a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS). In February 2016, Terrafugia announced that it had completed static load testing of one-tenth scale carbon fiber wings.
The original concept, the TF-X, was a hybrid-electric tilt propeller “flying car.” For high-speed forward flight, the TF-X would fold back the blades and tuck the wings and propellers into the sides of the fuselage, using a large ducted fan at the rear for thrust. The company noted at the time that “Terrafugia’s vision for the future is the TF-X: a mass-market flying car with the potential to revolutionize the way we all get around. An all-electric vehicle with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities and computer-controlled flight, the TF-X is the flying car of the future. Terrafugia’s product development roadmap lays the groundwork for achieving this vision through a series of realistic steps over the coming decades.”
In late 2017, Terrafugia was acquired by the Chinese company Zhejiang Geely, which owns the Volvo and Lotus car brands. This injected new capital into the Transition production, and gave new urgency to the company’s eVTOL development. As unveiled at Heli-Expo in Feb. 2018, the company is studying two competing concepts under the designation of TF-2. Both are considered to be compatible with the Uber Elevate concept. Passengers board a transportation pod, which is transported by ground vehicle to the aircraft and connected prior to liftoff, so the passengers never have to deboard.
- News posts
- Terrafugia Acquired, Aug. 23, 2017
- Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, March 2017
- The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Jan 2017