Skycar® 400 (prototype)
Moller International / Freedom Motors
Dixon, California, USA
Moller International was founded in 1983 as a spin-off of Moller Corporation to continue to design, develop and manufacture conventional and hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) passenger and cargo aircraft. Moller's aircraft being manufactured for use in the nascent advanced air mobility (AAM) industry. The company is designing aircraft that are safe, efficient, affordable, easy-to-use as automobiles, low noise, low emissions, low fuel usage, low purchase price, low operating cost and can use existing transportation networks. The company is headquartered in Dixon, California, USA.
The company has developed and integrated novel technologies required for small, powered-lift VTOL aircraft. These include electronic stabilization and control systems, efficient ducted fan designs, thrust vectoring mechanisms and aerodynamically stable composite airframe structures. The single most significant spin-off technology is the Rotapower engine, a Wankel rotary engine. This engine is now produced and marketed by Freedom Motors.
Historically, the company has primarily focused on using petroleum fueled engines for their power source of their aircraft designs and prototypes. Moller International confirmed in June 2023, they are now designing all their aircraft as hybrid-electric VTOL passenger and cargo aircraft. At the same time, it was also confirmed with Moller that any of their past and current aircraft can be designed and manufactured as hybrid-electric VTOL or all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Skycar® 400 conventional powertrain or hybrid-electric VTOL passenger prototype aircraft
The Skycar® 400 is a 5th generation VTOL passenger full-scale prototype aircraft that is powered by a conventional engine or could also be powered by a hybrid-electric power source. The 400 prototype was planned to have models that held two, four or six people. The defining unique design of the aircraft is a sleek fuselage with four rotating ducted fan nacelles on the four corners of the fuselage and the entire aircraft is painted in fire engine red. One model has four nacelles, no wing and a large rear T-tail. Another model variation has four nacelles, a low main wing and one vertical stabilizer.
The original model used an ethanol fueled Freedom Motors Rotapower® engines provided by Freedom Motors. Freedom Motors is owned by Moller International. Moller has also designed the aircraft to have a hybrid-electric using electric motors and Rotapower engines. The company has stated they can also design the aircraft to be fully electric, using electric ducted fans and battery packs for its power source.
Skycar® 400 conventional powertrain VTOL passenger prototype aircraft specifications
The conventional powertrain Skycar® 400 VTOL passenger prototype aircraft hold four passengers and is powered by eight Rotapower engines with ducted fans inside four rotating nacelles. The estimated cruise speed at sea level at 65% power is 284 mph (457 km/h). The expected maximum speed at sea level is 331 mph (532 km/h). The anticipated maximum speed at 20,000 ft (6,096 m) is 308 mph (495 km/h). The projected range in the air at an economic cruise speed is 750 miles (1,206 km). The target maximum speed on paved roads is 30 mph (50 km/h).
The empty weight of the aircraft is 1,680 lb (762 kg), has a maximum payload of 720 lb (326 kg) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 2,400 lb (1,088 kg). The aircraft has one main low wing with one rear vertical stabilizer. The M400 employs a fly-by-wire computer technology that monitors and maintains stability. Plans include adding an autonomous mode utilizing the highway-in-the-sky (HITS) and automated air traffic control. It is equipped with a whole aircraft ballistic emergency parachute.
The Skycar® 400 was originally made to be purchased as a private flying car with urban and rural travel in mind. The aircraft has also been designed to travel at low speed for short distances on the ground like a car and is narrow enough to use on roadways and to park in a garage. Moller is a proponent of hybrid-electric powertrains for advanced air mobility (AAM) as it increases the range of the aircraft which ultimately increases the usefulness of the 400. No time estimate has been made for when production aircraft might begin.
- Aircraft type: Conventional, hybrid-electric or all-electric VTOL passenger prototype aircraft
- Piloting: 1 pilot
- Capacity: 3 passengers
- Cruise speed at sea level (at 65% power): 284 mph (457 km/h)
- Maximum speed at sea level: 331 mph (532 km/h)
- Maximum speed (20,000 ft/6,096 m): 308 mph (495 km/h)
- Range in the air (economic cruise): 750 miles (1,206 km)
- Maximum speed on paved roads: 30 mph (50 km/h)
- Flight time (at sea level at 131 mph/210 km/h): 5.9 hours (engine)
- Maximum altitude: 36,000 ft (10,972 m)
- Area needed for takeoff and landing: 35 feet in diameter (11 meters in diameter)
- Empty weight: 1,680 lb (762 kg)
- Maximum payload: 720 lb (326 kg)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 2,400 lb (1,088 kg)
- Noise level goal (at 500 ft/152 m): 65 dBA
- Propellers: Ducted fans or electric ducted fans (EDFs)
- Electric motors: 8 engines or 8 electric motors
- Power source: Petroleum fueled engines (ethanol) or a hybrid-electric power source
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
- Dimensions (Length X Width X Height): 21.5' X 8.5' X 7.5' (6.5m X 2.5m X 2.25m)
- Window: Canopy over cockpit
- Wings: 1 main low wing (depending upon the model variation)
- Tail: 1 vertical stabilizer or 1 T-tail (depending upon the model variation)
- Landing gear: Retractable tricycle wheeled landing gear (or fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear)
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft. The aircraft has a whole aircraft emergency ballistic parachute.
- Moller International website
- Freedom Motors website
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- Article: Flying car guru gets more down to Earth, NBC News, Sept. 13, 2007
- Article: TechFuture: Hold On! Paul Moller's Skycar Is Coming, Huffington Post, May 17, 2014
- Article: Paul Moller, CEO of Moller International, Inc. (MLER), to Be Interviewed LIVE on Clear Channel Business Talk Radio - September 2nd, 2014, Y!Sports, Sept. 1, 2014
- Article: You can now buy the Moller Skycar, one of the world's most iconic (and dubious) 'flying cars', The Verge, July 6, 2017
- Article: Concept: Moller International Designs a PHEV with Short Flight Capability, Green Car Congress, Sept. 9, 2008
- Article: The Moller Skycar, One of the World’s Most Iconic ‘flying Cars,’ Is Now Available for Purchase., Geeks ULTD, Mar. 31, 2022