A new US-based joint venture electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) company has promised to deliver a three-seat “flying hypercar” which boasts a mind-bending top-speed of 400km/h and an all-electric range of over 480-kilometres.
The new company, Urban eVTOL, is the brainchild of Pete Bitar – a VTOL and eVTOL inventor with over 14 patents to his name – and Carlos Salaff – an automotive designer who has worked on futuristic concept and production cars at Mazda, including the Nagare, Furai, Mazda 3, and MX-5.
Which makes a lot of sense when you look at the design concepts for Urban eVTOL’s flying hypercar, which they have named ‘Leo’.
Urban eVTOL describe the Leo Coupe as designed by Salaff and “featuring a revolutionary, proven electric propulsion system created by Pete Bitar”. Billed as “the brainchild of two passionate creators who desired to build an aircraft unlike the airplane or helicopter” the Leo is “an automobile for the sky — as science fiction has foreseen.”
So compact that Leo will reportedly be able to fit in most 2-car garages, its fully electric propulsion system consists of clusters of powerful electric jets.
Meanwhile, enclosed within Leo’s wings sit the vehicle’s rotos. The hypercar’s propulsion system has also recently been awarded funding by DARPA – the United States Governments Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – which will allow for further development of the design.
The digital renders of Leo are a little dated, according to a recent interview with Pete Bitar. Specifically, in speaking to New Atlas, Bitar explained that “The images we’ve got there are our best-looking artwork, but they don’t reflect the current thrust configuration.
“The Leo will run 16 10-kW vertical thrusters, each about 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter, making 120 pounds of thrust, much larger than the ones you see there. There’ll be three in each of the forward banks and five in the rear banks, and the forward thruster array will use six 11-inch jets with turbine blades rather than propeller blades.”
A double box-wing design – which curls under at the front and at the back of the vehicle – will be capable of fully supporting the Leo in horizon flight once it reaches speeds of around 180km/h. Meanwhile, louvres or covers are expected to close off the vertical lift ducts while at speed so as to reduce drag.
In terms of how range will equate to flight time, Bitar expects the relatively light weight of the Leo plus the efficiency of its ducted fans in tandem with its high speeds will result in a relatively impressive flight time.
“We’re expecting an hour and 15 minutes, including about five minutes of vertical takeoff and landing, with reserves,” Bitar said to New Atlas. “With our high forward speed of 250 mph, you’re looking at nearly 300-miles, or 450-kilometres, roughly, on a single charge.
“We’ve done the math on that. We’ve empirically tested the forward thrusters and the vertical thrusters, so we know what we’re going to be burning. And that’s running the vertical thrusters for as much as two or three minutes on takeoff and landing, to account for the forward speed we need.”
Joshua S. Hill is a Melbourne-based journalist who has been writing about climate change, clean technology, and electric vehicles for over 15 years. He has been reporting on electric vehicles and clean technologies for Renew Economy and The Driven since 2012. His preferred mode of transport is his feet.