This post was contributed by Sebastian Blanco, editor in chief of AutoblogGreen. Jim Motavalli is on a month-long assignment.
The best part about living in the future, as we all do right now, is that flying cars are here. And they don't look anything like a Jetsons' mobile. No, the most recent, most serious flying vehicle out there today is the Parajet SkyCar, which combines a small car, a giant fan and a parafoil. It's no pipe dream, friends, because the prototype drove/flew from London to Timbuktu in January 2009. Parajet's website says that the SkyCar will be available for deliveries in late 2010 — which didn't happen as far as I know. Still, chances are that this is one flying car that will make it to production.
What would you give for a flying car? Just a few years ago, filmmaker Kevin Smith brought his Dante and Randal Clerks characters to Jay Leno with a discussion about what getting such a wonderful car would be worth. (This is might be slightly NSFW — not suitable for work — if late-night humor isn't considered appropriate at your workplace.):
There there was the all-electric Rinspeed sQuba Concept from a few years ago, which was a convertible that can go underwater. Yes, you read that right. Everything in the powertrain is sealed so that the car — which can operate just fine on the dry land — can also move like a submarine when needed. There are on-board underwater breathing devices for driver and passenger in the salt water-resistant cockpit. You can also keep the top down when going under, but then you'd better remember to not leave your cell phone in your pocket.
As the trailer for BMW's four upcoming mobility documentaries shows, the question of how people will move around in the coming decades is a big question, one being tackled by everyone with an idea for jet packs to big manufacturers who want to sell millions of new vehicles.
What does all of this have to do with greener transportation? Lots.
Like car racing — a sport that burns a lot of fuel and goes in circles — people who tinker with fantastical transportation ideas can help us find ways to be more efficient, since they're dealing with new problems. Think air friction is bad on the highway? Try water friction for your submersible car. Want to get more time out of your jet pack? Find the most efficient way to burn the little bit of fuel that you're carrying. Want to give your flying car a chance in a world where gasoline costs are going to keep skyrocketing? Make sure your SkyCar can burn biofuel (which it does).
Solving these problems doesn't automatically make for better "regular" cars, but it can lead to interesting solutions, whether that's things like the SkyCar or GM's unusual P.U.M.A (or, more likely the company's EN-V concepts).
More important than the technology, though, is how dream vehicles like the ones mentioned above can inspire us to rethink how we get around. Remember this line from the 2006 movie "Over the Hedge"?
RJ: That is an S.U.V. Humans ride in them because they are slowly losing their ability to walk.
Penny: Jeepers, it's so big!
Lou: How many humans fit in there?
RJ: Usually one.