Massachusetts startup Alaka’i has launched a flying car concept called Skai that it says is the “first air mobility vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells.” The futuristic vehicle can hold five people or a 1000 pound payload. Looking like something between a helicopter and a quadcopter the ‘car’ might be the technology that will transform the world.
Skai uses 100% hydrogen fuel cells. It has a 400-mile range and can fly for about 4 hours. Alaka’i says it went with using hydrogen because its the cleanest ‘end-to-end energy solution available today. The hydrogen developed for Skai is produced using renewable energy and at the end of their life, 95% of the cell can be reused, with the rest recycled with 99% efficiency.
Strong team has big vision
Six rotors driven by electric motors generate about 400 horsepower, more than enough to provide lift for the vehicle's gross weight of 4000 pounds. The team behind Alaka'i have a seriously good shared CV. Co-Founder, CTO, and President Brian Morrison has been developing various avionics (aircraft control systems) for decades; he also holds 14 patents.
Before starting Alaka'i in 2005 he worked on civilian, military and NASA programs. CEO of Alaka’i, Steve Hanvey, was a decorated military pilot and has more than 40 years of professional experience in aerospace. The two will need all the experience and industry know-how they can muster to convince the FAA to give the vehicle certification. It currently does not qualify for either Certification Part 23, for fixed-wing aircraft, or Part 27, for rotorcraft.
Anonymous developer funds dreams
The company has been pushing a full-size mock-up, a VR experience, and a slick promotional video to get both the public and investors interested in the project. Alaka’i is currently funded by a single investor who is currently remaining anonymous.
The development process for the flying car is estimated to have cost around $15 million so far. What might set Alaka’i apart from its competitors is the company's drive towards a high production low-cost model. Morison told Forbes “We will have our own air taxi capability. Other customers might include defense, government, personal air mobility, agriculture, and inspections. It’s going to cost a lot less than people imagine for this type of vehicle.”
What does the future of mobility look like?
Mobility and transport is the peak topic in 2019. How urban inhabitants move through space is the question on everyone's minds from urban planners to health professionals. What does the future of our cities look like? Will we take our modes of transport vertical? Will fleets of autonomous vehicles take over personal ownership models?
The idea of occupying air space is tantalizing considering the crush of cars that make commuting hellish not to mention contribute to the toxic air pollution slowly killing us all.