10/06/2034 8:03 AM ET

NEWS

Hovercars Are Closer Than You Think

Iain Durant
Technology Reporter

CC BY 4.0 2059 Cadillac El Dorado by Bill Ward | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 face by Mridul Tantia | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
Probably not what the first hovercars will look like. That hairstyle after all, is ancient.
It's looking more and more likely that the first hovercar will be released next year.

Since the Detroit Auto Show in January, rumors about a new hovercar model (a "Vertically-Positioned Vehicle", or VPV) have been increasing, with angst centered around an announcement which some say is imminent.

Secrecy around the project and its details has been staggeringly effective, leading some to believe that a massive, co-ordinated campaign of misinformation is under way.

No-one is able to confirm the manufacturer, a model name or even the technology in use.

It has been speculated that the VPV will house some kind of boosted hydrogen fuel cell, a biofuel engine, or even a miniaturized nuclear reactor (it's safe to say that last one is a bit of a joke).

Opinion - at least from the people I have spoken to in the industry - seems to rest on either Ford or GM being the likely manufacturer. The name "Fli" keeps popping up for the model. But that could be a working name or nothing at all.

It seems as if the domestic auto industry is actually driving itself a little crazy trying to figure out the details of this project, which hits all sorts of sci-fi buttons.

But aside from the Star Trek-style cultural implications of such a vehicle, the practical impact alone would be phenomenal.

Any engine capable of not just propelling a vehicle forward but actually holding it in the air would mean that a huge leap forward in technology has been developed. We know that it is virtually impossible for a car running on fossil fuels to perform this task without massively increasing its rate of fuel consumption, which means that the engine would be a revolution in renewables design. (Either that or it would travel forty feet and need a recharge of some sort.)

That would mean a huge impact on the environment, should the vehicle go mainstream. Another ancillary benefit would be a massive drop in road maintainence expenditure. Last year the US spent $115bn on interstate maintainence and upgrades, up from $103bn the previous year. That of course does not include other roads including residential.

The point is, the less roads are used, the less they cost to fix and the less often they need to be fixed.

Not to mention the decrease in rolling costs (no pun intended) of the car itself, which suddenly is no longer prone to wear and tear on shock absorbers or brakes.

If GM or Ford are coming up with a hovercar, its net positive effects could linger in ways which aren't fully understood at this time.

We'll have to wait for now, but hopefully not too long.
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