A Tacoma-based startup has pitched its plans to make a flying car that could take off and land vertically, fly for up to 50 miles and avoid greenhouse gas emissions by fully operating on battery power.
Zeva Aero has a scale model of personal aircraft, called the ZERO because the electric craft flies without any pollution-causing emissions, that promises to provide high-speed travel for commuters because it would avoid roads and airports all together. Key to solving that problem is that the craft can take off and land vertically, so that the pilot can fly point to point without the need for an airfield. Imagine it like a human-sized drone but the pilot is enclosed from the elements.
“Your ZERO will fit in your garage and then whisk you off to your office in the city at a comfortable 100-plus miles per hour,” promotional materials state. “Before the urban sprawl we know today overtook the towns that once harbored small community airports, the small airplane seemed like a great solution for short, commuter trips. That is no longer the case.”
Land in urban areas is too expensive to make personal aircraft affordable, so even if you owned one you would still have to shuttle to and from airfields.
“In the Tacoma area alone, 22 airports have disappeared to make way for multi-family dwelling units,” said Zeva founder and designer Stephen Tibbitts. “You simply can’t get to where you want to go in a small aircraft anymore. Which is why the ZERO rises above other personal aircraft options. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads and we don’t need airports.”
The earliest production shipments could happen in late 2020 and cost about $140,000. And of course, the owner would still have to have a pilot’s license to go between 30 to 50 miles.
“As time goes on and batteries improve, the range will obviously go up,” Tibbitts said. “We have many safety features built in. Since it can land virtually anywhere, you would simply land if your battery runs low.”
But the Zeva Zero needs $1.5 million in funding to get the project off the ground. The company raised a few eyebrows at an investors gathering called the Angel Capital Expo Northwest last week and has its sights on Boeing’s GoFly X-Prize competition next October. Winning that comes with $2 million.
“It is going to be highly competitive,” Tibbitts said.
Other contests could also bring the Zero or other flying crafts to your garage. There’s the Kitty Hawk Flyer that is backed by Google, and Uber’s Elevate, which has plans to test its own “flying car” in 2020 and could become self-flying in future years.