► Chinese automotive giant buys Terrafugia
► Flying car hopefuls based in Massachusetts
► Hopes to bring first model to market in 2019
Owner of Volvo. Owner of the London Taxi brand. Owner of the new Lynk & Co. car brand. Now Geely is the owner of Terrafugia; an American flying car company that envisions an airborne model appearing to the market in 2019.
What is Terrafugia?
Founded in 2006 by five MIT graduates, the privately funded outfit is based in Woburn, Masachussetts.
It is currently working on two products, The Transition and the TF-X.
Described by Terrafugia as ‘the world’s first practical flying car’, the Transition has recently been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration as a ‘Light Sport Aircraft.’ That enables it to be flown by holders of a Sport Pilot Certificate, which requires only 20 hours’ flying time – plus a driver’s licence for driving the vehicle on the road.
It’s a folding-wing, two-seat, roadable aircraft that can switch between flight and drive mode in under a minute.
Like any other car on the market, The Transition runs on ordinary unleaded petrol and will be fully equipped with airbags, seatbelts, a crumple zone and, less common in the automotive world, a parachute. Once airborne, various safety features kick in, including the encouragingly named ‘automatic terrain avoidance.’
A series of working prototypes have logged over 100 flying hours, and Terrafugia hopes to bring the Transition to market in 2019.
Classier aesthetics than the Transition and a sportier design - it looks like something that you might find hidden away in the bat cave.
It’s more akin to a helicopter than a plane, capable of vertical take-off and landing – providing a more convenient mode of transport than that of the Transition. An all-electric vehicle, it’s still in the early R&D stages. Terrafugia claims that it should be possible to purchase for a price similar to most high-end luxury cars, with a launch scheduled by 2023.
How are Geely involved?
Geely has acquired Terrafugia’s operations and assets in their entirety as of the week commencing 13 November 2017 for an undisclosed sum.
Terrafugia will remain based in the USA and will continue to concentrate on its existing work developing flying cars.
In anticipation of Geely’s arrival Terrafugia says it’s ‘tripled’ its engineering team to nearly 100 – so there’s clearly a fresh injection of funds at play. Geely says it plans to expand the company’s R&D capabilities in the USA and in China.
Geely's vice president of international business Nathan Yu Ning becomes the new chairman of Terrafugia, and former Bell Helicopter China MD Chris Jaran also joins as CEO while Terrafugia founder Carl Dietrich becomes chief technology officer. Three other appointees from the Geely Holding Company have also joined the management team.
Geely obviously believes Terrafugia’s chances of success are more than pie in the sky. Geely Holding Group founder and chairman Li Shufu announced:
'The team at Terrafugia have been at the forefront of believing in and realizing the vision for a flying car and creating the ultimate mobility solution. This is a tremendously exciting sector and we believe that Terrafugia is ideally positioned to change mobility as we currently understand it and herald the development of a new industry in doing so. Our investment in the company reflects our shared belief in their vision and we are committed to extending our full support to Terrafugia, leveraging the synergies provided by our international operations and track record of innovation, to make the flying car a reality.'