In the land of the autobahn, drivability is a passion—even if the car is designed to fly. And the need for good road performance has driven the design of Germany’s Carplane flying car, the near-complete prototype of which was unveiled at the Aero Friedrichshafen general-aviation show on April 15-18.

Braunschweig-based Carplane is developing the prototype with funding from the EU and the German state of Lower Saxony. The prototype is expected to be complete by the time funding support ends in July, after which Carplane plans to fly the vehicle and continue working toward certification on private investment, says program manager John Brown.

The Carplane has an unusual twin-hull configuration driven by the need for good road handling. Stowing the removable wings between the hulls prevents them from producing lift at higher road speeds, or the forces that could be produced by sidewinds if the wings were folded along the sides of the fuselage, he says.

Dual hulls also enable use of full-size car wheels to improve road-holding. While other flying-car designs use smaller aircraft-size wheels to reduce drag in flight, Brown says the twin hulls allow the vehicle to accommodate 15-in. road wheels (from the Smart car) while minimizing parasitic drag in flight.

The Carplane is powered by a 151-hp piston engine burning unleaded gasoline. This drives a gearbox with seven positions: four forward and one reverse driving the road wheels in car mode; one that drives the pusher propeller in flight; and one that drives both wheels and prop for a shorter takeoff.

Driving both wheels and prop increases acceleration. “We can get off the ground in 80 meters [260 ft.], at 45-50 kt,” says Brown. “And we can land and stop within 80 meters.”

Licensed by LSA Engines from Weber Motor and originally designed as a snowmobile powerplant, the 850-cc two-cylinder, four-stroke engine is turbocharged for use in flight and is already certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), he says, and meets the Euro 6 emissions standard in Europe.

In the prototype, the sailplane-style wings are removed, stowed and reattached manually, but Carplane has designed a mechanism that enables the wings to stow and unstow, and empennage to extend and retract, automatically. This has been demonstrated with a quarter-scale model, and the prototype’s structure is designed to accommodate the mechanism.

 

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