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The Model 367 “BiPod” hybrid flying car designed by Burt Rutan

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July 19, 2011

Scaled Composite's BiPod hybrid flying car

Scaled Composite's BiPod hybrid flying car

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The team at Scaled Composites pulled out all the stops to realize the final design of the company's founder and former CTO, Burt Rutan, ahead of his retirement in April earlier this year. In just four months, the Scaled Composites team went from beginning the preliminary design to the first flight of the "BiPod", a hybrid gasoline-electric flying car that grew out of a program to develop a rapid, low-cost electric test bed using as many off-the-shelf components as possible.

Rutan's Scaled Composites is the company behind a string of groundbreaking aircraft including the GlobalFlyer, along with the sub-orbital spaceplanes SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo and its launch aircraft White Knight Two. But while he wasn't busy with those projects, Rutan was apparently also toying with the idea of a personal electric aircraft, including VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) and roadable concepts.

When those working on the BiPod program realized that many of the propulsion system characteristics of their electric test-bed vehicle aligned with the drivetrain needs of a roadable vehicle they expanded the research program to include a "flying car" airframe.

The result was an entirely new design with the ability to operate as a high-performance airplane with STOL (short take-off and landing) capabilities, a 200 mph (322 km/h) maximum speed and range of 700 miles (1,127 km) or as a road commuter vehicle capable of freeway speeds, urban driving and garage storage.

Scaled Composite's BiPod hybrid flying car

Designed for the dual emphasis of safe ground operations and efficient high speed flight, the BiPod features a twin fuselage configuration with a 4-wheeled chassis with two cockpits - the left-hand cockpit used for ground driving and the right-hand cockpit used for flight. There is also a protected storage area for stowing the wings and tail surfaces during ground operations.

This unique configuration is enabled through the use of electric power transmission, which decouples the engine location from the propeller location without the need for mechanical shafts and gearboxes. The craft has by two 450cc internal-combustion engines, one per fuselage, which provide electrical power to the rear wheels and propellers located on the horizontal stabilizer by way of a generator. There are also lithium batteries located in the nose to provide additional energy for take-off and in case of an engine emergency.

While the propellers are yet to be fitted, the vehicle has already made several bunny hops along the company's main runway in Mojave, California, propelled by the rear wheels, with the first "flight" taking place on March 30, 2011.

Scaled Composites doesn't yet have any plans to commercially produce the vehicle, which is also known as Model 367, saying it is continuing to test and develop the BiPod configuration and hybrid propulsion system, with the aim of using similar systems on future aircraft configurations.

Via Aviation Week

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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10 Comments

This is nice BUT, why do you people keep calling it a "flying car"? It is NOT a flying car, it's a roadable airplane. Anything that HAS TO take off from an airport or landing strip of some kind is NOT a flying car it's a "roadable airplane/aircraft"! Anything that can take off from a regularly travelled roadway and NOT need an airstrip, THAT would be a flying car! Not trying to be mean, but please, lets keep some reality going here.

Palerider171
19th July, 2011 @ 11:52 am PDT

Palerider is right on the money. This vehicle is neat, a step forward even, but not a flying car.

kuryus
19th July, 2011 @ 01:16 pm PDT

how long do u think it will take them to make a flying Delorean lol

Waiel Jibrail
19th July, 2011 @ 02:48 pm PDT

Taking off or landing on a roadway, except in a serious emergency, would violate numerous laws and cause the immediate loss of license.

I'm not sure most pilots would like that.

rdinning
19th July, 2011 @ 04:54 pm PDT

I also agree with Palerider, and I disagree with kuryus...this isn't a step forward.

I'm waiting for the day when a real flying car finally shows up.....and this one isn't even close. So far, the best one is Terrafugia's Transition, which does need a runway...but the wings fold in, so you don't have to physically stow them somewhere else.

Howe
19th July, 2011 @ 04:54 pm PDT

How about off-road?

The Maverick has more immediate use worldwide because it doesn't need roads to land.

As for the "roadable aircraft" wording issue,

must be we so anal with out words?

I'd sooner fly a car than drive an airplane.

At any rate,

why does everybody assume you need to land at an airport OR use a public road?

In much of the world,

aircraft are used because there is no asphalt of any kind!

Thus were the early flying boats so popular-

inadequate airstrips.

Large expanses of water are easier to come by.

At any rate,

just buy a big helicopter and carry a motorcycle!

-g

Griffin
19th July, 2011 @ 06:11 pm PDT

Hey everyone, didn't think I'd get so much response on my comment. Yes, Griffin, even you. You're right about "roadable aircraft", a scientific term I read off another article. Seems to fit the most. I wish I had enough money to assist Dr. Moller with his dream of the real first flying car. This one actually looks like a car, has no "airplane-like" wings, and works on thrust vectoring. He's been working on it for years, but funding has been an issue lately. Out of all the "so-called" flying car designs I've seen, his is the one that looks more like a car and not an aircraft. Theoretically, if he gets approval from the FAA to "unteather" his car, it will make the dream possible to take off from a standstill in the middle of a traffic jam, and fly away. This would be so cool! So yeah, flying cars, I think not. They are airplanes that they are trying to make street legal.

Palerider171
19th July, 2011 @ 07:26 pm PDT

Having some standards over what can be driven on the road or what can be flown is for the benefit of the drive or pilot. Although the dream of popping up and flying over the traffic mess has been on the minds of a lot of people, I don't think it is going to happen anytime soon in America. And I like the airplane that can be driven on the road better than the car that can occasionally fly. If anyone can do the job right, Scaled Composites has a good shot! And all the other countries that do not have rules separating cars and runways, more power to them! It might come down to something similar to the rest stop kind of thing where a fella turns off the freeway to spread his wings or do the opposite! That would be the best of both worlds!

Will, the tink
20th July, 2011 @ 02:32 am PDT

palerider: "I wish I had enough money to assist Dr. Moller with his dream of the real first flying car."

I think that would be a waste of money.. I cant see the moller skycar ever being commercial viable product. the complexity is just to high (several engines), the fuel economy to low (720hp). you would need a personal aircraft mechanic to keep it flying.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a personal flying car, but a 2400lbs jet-fighter-complex-multi million$-device isn't the way IMO.

I kinda like the idea of a super light enclosed autogyro with a folding rotor, it would sure beat every ducted-fan concept on simplicity, price and safety :)

I really like Burt's concept. light weight, a hybrid, and it appears that what Hp you can get from a 1liter ICE I sufficient for propulsion.

Burt Rutan: enjoy your retirement, you've earned it :) thanks for being the most inspirational and innovative aviation engineer in the last 50 years.

Jasper
20th July, 2011 @ 08:01 am PDT

As a former Hang Glider "Crash" Pilot consider wing loading and compressed air rather than electric motors. Our vision is spread the wings of your bird and lift off, no runway or drive way needed. With over 200 square feet of solar panels who needs gasoline?

Any machine that burns anything is verboten.

Patrick McGean
7th August, 2011 @ 11:37 am PDT
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