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Redzuan steps up higher & higher, from national car to flying car

Terrafugia's TF-X

Terrafugia's TF-X

Written by Aziz Hassan

February 27, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

FIRST it was about the prototype for Malaysia’s third national car and before this has even been unveiled, we are now being told of a prototype for a flying car.

Wow, but no reason to not feel excited and welcome such an announcement if we can truly make it happen.

How long it takes for something like this, a prototype I mean, to eventually become the real thing depends on who’s talking and how we look at it.

If it’s just about putting a simple model for display someone may be able to do it within months but if it’s about actually developing a car, from prototype to the sales showroom, it can take between two and three years if you’re working on improving an existing model and up to five years if it’s a completely new model.

Since Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad started talking about the third car only last June, the prototype Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd. Redzuan Yusof was talking about could be a simple basic design yet to be sufficiently tested on the road before it’s unveiled to the public. But Redzuan did say that the prototype was being developed with a RM20 million grant.

A flying car of course is something else and will have to deal with more issues before the vehicle can fly or share space with so many other conventional cars at any one time on the road. There are also more laws to adhere to and matters like infrastructure, flying skills and an accredited pilot’s licence, weather and the price of a machine.

The price has been variously put at about US$280,000 to anything between $1.2 million and $1.6 million while one company has said that it can’t do it for any of these prices and there’s another from Britain that costs at least $2 million.

The flying range, speed and altitude differ from type to type but 160 kilometres per hour while in the air is one speed being talked about but on the ground the car turns into something that may run at a slow 55 kmh. There could be space for 2 or five persons.

This year should be the year when the world will finally see these VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) machines being available widely. Some of the partners in the projects are big names like Boeing, Airbus and Uber and there is big money involved.

For the Malaysian flying car, Redzuan said RM1 million was spent to develop the prototype. Compare this to the grant available to develop the third national car.

This was what Redzuan said further about the VTOL: “It is a way for the government to create an environment that stimulates people to think about new technology.

“We are providing the catalyst and ecosystem to stimulate the people to think beyond what we do today.”

Not in harsh weather or heavy rain, you don’t

Additionally the project is to utilise the country’s capabilities in the aerospace, drone, unmanned aerial vehicle and automotive sectors.

“Malaysia has the skill set to excel in the field of aerospace, drone, UAV and the national car. We need to use our skill set because the bottom line is we want to be a producing nation.”

But what else he hopes to achieve from such a project that is going to need lots of money is not known. Even if we have the technology most likely it will stay at home because the West has been widely and actively involved since a few years now in producing the models to be sold.

If Malaysia can’t go further than just having a prototype, one can’t see what other tangible benefits can be gained from such a project because even if it can be developed into a vehicle good enough to be sold commercially, there cannot be any economies of scale, not at the selling prices mentioned in the articles linked above.

There is another downside in the tropics that Redzuan looked to have missed out when he talked about the flying car and that is the weather.

This is one vehicle that is considered unsafe in harsh weather and where there is heavy rain and Malaysia, in case Redzuan has forgotten, is one country with a lot of both, never mind the strong lightning.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.