Aircraft

Pal-V Liberty flying car is now street-legal in Europe

Pal-V Liberty flying car is no...
Yes, that's a license plate on the back of the Pal-V Liberty, which this Dutch company claims is the world's first production-model flying car
Yes, that's a license plate on the back of the Pal-V Liberty, which this Dutch company claims is the world's first production-model flying car
View 13 Images
Yes, that's a license plate on the back of the Pal-V Liberty, which this Dutch company claims is the world's first production-model flying car
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Yes, that's a license plate on the back of the Pal-V Liberty, which this Dutch company claims is the world's first production-model flying car
Folded up in street mode, the Pal-V looks like half a supercar with some strange, expensive outdoor sports gear strapped to the roof
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Folded up in street mode, the Pal-V looks like half a supercar with some strange, expensive outdoor sports gear strapped to the roof
Fully folded out, the Liberty is a three-wheel gyroplane running on a rear pusher prop
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Fully folded out, the Liberty is a three-wheel gyroplane running on a rear pusher prop
The conversion process between road and flight modes takes a few minutes
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The conversion process between road and flight modes takes a few minutes
Separate flight and drive motors share the same large fuel tank, giving the Liberty 4.5 hours of flight endurance plus
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Separate flight and drive motors share the same large fuel tank, giving the Liberty 4.5 hours of flight endurance plus reserves
The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
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The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
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The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
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The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
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The production-ready Pal-V Liberty Flying Car
What the heck's that thing behind us?
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What the heck's that thing behind us?
The wide rear wheels give the Pal-V a solid and stable base for road driving
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The wide rear wheels give the Pal-V a solid and stable base for road driving
The Pal-V Liberty: certainly a unique sight on the street
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The Pal-V Liberty: certainly a unique sight on the street
Two-seat chassis has a "half a supercar" sort of look about it
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Two-seat chassis has a "half a supercar" sort of look about it
View gallery - 13 images

Dutch company Pal-V has celebrated a milestone for its Liberty vehicle, which it describes as the world's first production-model flying car. A high-performance trike that converts into a gyrocopter, the Liberty has been street-approved in the EU.

Registration and certification are an under-discussed challenge for people who are trying to make multi-mode three-dimensional vehicles a full-production reality. It's expensive enough to certify a new production street vehicle or a new aircraft, let alone having to jump through two sets of hoops for one low-volume product that tries to do it all. It's a brutally long tunnel of (perfectly necessary) legislation to get through, but Pal-V is starting to see some light after 20 years of work.

The Liberty is a three-wheeler, both to save weight in the air and because the category is easier to street-certify than a four-wheeled car. It's not a bad compromise, you still get a reasonably stable ride with a roof over your head. And it'll certainly turn heads; the folded-up top rotor and large retracted tail fins make it look a bit like half a McLaren loaded up with gear for some weird snow sport that hasn't been invented yet.

In road mode, with an unspecified but grunty-sounding 100-horsepower engine, Pal-V says it'll do 100 mph (160 km/h), and a 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) sprint in less than nine seconds. Feel free not to be too whelmed; pigeons ain't great sprinters either, but the whole flying thing makes up for it somewhat.

Two-seat chassis has a "half a supercar" sort of look about it
Two-seat chassis has a "half a supercar" sort of look about it

In flight mode, it's a two-seat gyrocopter with a pusher prop on a separate 200-hp motor and a large top rotor that spins slowly and freely up top. It can take off using as little as 330 m (1,000 ft) of runway, reaching a maximum speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) in the air at altitudes up to 11,480 ft (3,500 m), and landing on as little as 30 m (100 feet) of runway. Its 26.4-gallon (100-liter) fuel tank gives it an impressive endurance of 4.3 hours in the sky, offering a range around 310 miles (500 km) with a half hour's reserve in the tank. You can get even further on the ground, up to 817 miles (1,315 km).

The process of converting it from street to sky modes looks a little cumbersome, but can be achieved in a couple of minutes. It appears to involve attaching the folding pusher prop, unlocking and pulling out the tail fins and then raising up the main rotor using electric servos.

Production prototypes have been testing on tracks for most of 2020. Now Pal-V says, "recently the Liberty passed the stringent road admission tests and now is allowed on the streets with an official license plate," having passed high-speed oval driving tests, braking, emission and noise tests among others.

The conversion process between road and flight modes takes a few minutes
The conversion process between road and flight modes takes a few minutes

In a press release, Pal-V CTO Mike Stekelenburg said, "We have been cooperating with the road authorities for many years to reach this milestone. The excitement you feel in the team is huge. It was very challenging to make a “folded aircraft” pass all road admission tests ... I feel the energy and motivation in our team to push hard for the last few milestones and get the Liberty certified for flying too."

Indeed, Pal-V has had prototypes in the air since 2012, and the Liberty has been undergoing the torturous process of EASA aviation certification for five years at this point. According to the company, "over 1,200 test reports need to be completed before the final 150 hours of flight testing can take place," and currently that's expected to keep these guys busy until at least 2022.

Once it passes that test, Pal-V can start delivering to customers, who will need not just a driver's license but a gyroplane license as well. Some early buyers are apparently already doing some flight training with the company.

We look forward to seeing these odd-looking transforming multi-moders clearing their final hurdles and hitting the market for real. As much as anything, we want to see what they actually get used for. Check out the Liberty looking super weird on the street in a short video below.

Flying Car PAL-V Liberty Hits The Road

Source: Pal-V

View gallery - 13 images
11 comments
Tristan P
Cool!
riczero-b
I just love gyroplanes. Couldn't they combine the road and air engines to save weight?
guzmanchinky
People can make sun, but the engineering that goes into this deserves all kinds of respect. I can't wait until we live in a world where this looks like the Wright Flyer.
Heckler
As far as use case, we probably won't be seeing these vehicles take off from roads designated for cars. Since it needs 330 m of runway, this type of vehicle will most likely be confined to areas with small airports where they then drive from the premises.
Chris Coles
So, why not show it flying, other than a very brief second or so? or is this another baby bringing in funding for ever; ergo, the longer it takes to reach full flying capability; the longer the successful careers of the team designing it? Get on with it!
BlueOak
@Chris Coles, go to the hyperlink in the story, paragraph starting “Indeed...” for flight video.
Username
The dash board seems overly complicated. What's with all the switches? with some seemingly hard to reach. Gyros typically have two instruments and one switch. Cars now only need one gauge. Seems it could all be on one tablet type display.
Grunchy
Neither a good car nor a good gyrocopter.
Btw here's what "good" gyrocopters look like:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KN4q1BNDjtk
bergamot69
The last time the Dutch were allowed to make cars, they came up with a design that used rubber bands and pulleys for a transmission- and it could go equally fast in either direction- as an old lady 3 doors down proved when she reversed out of her driveway, across the road, and straight through a hedge...

Guess this design is what you come up with when you've spent too much time in an Amsterdam cafe...
Martin Hone
Two engine's seems a bit excessive, but probably a good reason for them, but not mentioned, and I'd like to know a bit more about what the engines are.