Polycarbonate has not won favor as automotive glazing, but it will be used for windows in a car that flies.
Engineers of a novel vehicle called Terrafugia have won permission from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to use polycarbonate because automotive glass could be shattered by bird strikes.
The Terrafugia, which has fold-up wings for highway driving, is expected to go on sale within a year for a list price of $279,000. Ground speeds are up to 100 mph. Air speeds are up to 115 mph. Air range is 490 miles. Mileage on the highway is a surprising 35 mpg.
Give credit for the great mileage to a body made of carbon composites—the same material used in the fuselage and wings of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The Terrafugia will be the first car with a CFRP body. Also interestingly, all of the carbon composite parts for the Terrafugia are made in the company’s Woburn, MA plant on a custom-built autoclave. This is a class operation.
Here’s how the wings function: After landing, the pilot activates an electro-mechanical wing folding mechanism from inside the cockpit. The wings fold, once at the root and once at the mid-span, and are stowed vertically on the sides of the vehicle in less than 30 seconds, according to Terrafugia. At the same time, the engine power is directed to the wheels with a continuously variable transmission.
The engine power is directed to the propeller for flight through a carbon fiber drive shaft.
Some 100 people have paid a $10,000 deposit to get the first model. The cockpit can hold two people, luggage and golf clubs.