Skipping rush hour traffic by hopping in a flying cars may seem like science fiction, but a number of corporations and startups are currently working on prototypes.
In October, Cora a company testing electric, autonomous flying cars partnered with Air New Zealand in a step toward commercialization. And Boeing tested out their own self-driving air taxi in January. Even Uber has unveiled plans to launch a flying vehicle service by 2023.
These prototypes are electric and don’t give off any planet-warming greenhouse gases during flight, but mining and producing the electricity to charge their batteries is still an environmental cost.
But the flying air taxis of the near future, which can both hover like helicopters and glide like airplanes, might be more energy efficient than you’d think provided you carpool and only use them for long-distance travel.
That’s according to scientists at the University of Michigan, who recently considered the energy costs of these vehicles compared to ground-based cars.
To understand what energy these flying vehicles would require, the scientists used available data from other scientific and industry reports.
The model vehicle they considered had one pilot and four passenger seats, flew at an altitude of 1,000 feet, and could zoom around at up to 150 miles per hour.
They compared this example to two cars: one, gasoline-powered, driving 34.1 miles per gallon, and another, electric-powered, which drove the equivalent of 108.5 miles per gallon based on its energy use.
The scientists compared efficiency between the three vehicles at distances from three to 155 miles. For short trips of less than 22 miles, both gasoline and electric cars beat out the airborne vehicles in efficiency.