Although there are more than 130,000 limousines currently in service across the country, it might not be too long before an even fancier kind of car takes over. It might sound like an idea straight out of a 1960’s science fiction best-seller or animated series, but researchers are saying that flying cars could be the next big thing in transportation. And what’s more, they might actually be able to protect the planet while bringing you to your next destination.
Currently, there are over 11 million road vehicles worldwide that run on natural gas as fuel. While popular and convenient, there’s little doubt that this practice contributes to harmful emissions and global warming. In other words, our traditional cars and buses aren’t so good for sustainability. And while electric vehicles have become more prevalent in recent years, they still lack the widespread adaptation that could make a discernible difference in the way most Americans get around.
But recent research shows that the midcentury view of the far-off future might not have been so far off after all. In an examination of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOLs, for short), it was discovered that these flying cars might actually serve an important purpose. Although they use a lot of energy to take off, making them unsuitable for short commutes or running errands, they may actually be a more sustainable option for longer trips. Because it doesn’t get stuck in traffic and isn’t restricted by terrestrial speed limits, the VTOL can arrive at its destination much quicker. What’s more, the flying electric car has 35% less greenhouse gas emissions than the gas-powered vehicle. That said, the electric car that operates on our existing streets still wins out in terms of emissions — but it can be problematic to drive an electric car cross-country, given the unpredictability of charging station availability.
If they were to be put into use, VTOLs would serve a rather niche purpose. But in large cities that are prone to traffic congestion, this type of vehicle could make a substantial difference in terms of safety and the effects of climate change. Since transportation is responsible for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, it’s essential that we start exploring new possibilities. Scientists report that by 2050, net carbon emissions will need to be nearly zero in order to avoid the most drastic and negative outcomes of climate change. But given that VTOLs are in their early stages and the data is in its infancy, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not this formerly futuristic vision will become our reality down the line.