Automotive designer, Carlos Salaff, and electric propulsion specialist, Pete Bitar, have been working together to bring us a prototype of their three-seat LEO Coupe with a possible demo vehicle coming in 2022.
Salaff and Bitar’s joint venture, Urban eVTOL, just recently won the NASA “Future-Scaping Our Skies Challenge” that “aims to understand how societal, technological, environmental, economic, regulatory, and political changes over the next 30 years could impact aviation and vice versa.” So, this is no joke, these two are indeed, for real.
Bitar has a bunch of experience in vertical propulsion by building and developing electric jetpacks and vehicles at Electric Jet Aircraft. So he knows a thing or two about sending things into the air and keeping them there.
Salaff is the award-winning designer behind the Mazda Furai concept car that was unfortunately declared dead when it caught fire at a photography session in 2008. But he’s also responsible for the SALAFF C2 supercar concept that hasn’t caught fire as of the time of writing.
These two have presented us with a rendering of the LEO Coupe that features a double box-wing design. It definitely has Salaff’s fingerprints all over the design.
For vertical lift the car relies on 16 10-kW electric thrusters that each provide 120 pounds of thrust. To go back and forwards there are six 11-inch turbine-blade jets. Bitar and Salaff claim the car has a top speed of 250mph (402km/h) and a range of 300 miles (483km). That’s bloody quick but I guess that’s what those six jets can do.
There have been worries about the size of the wings especially when you compare them to the already successful “AirCar”. The size of the wings may impact the efficiency of flight at low speeds, but this brings the LEO Coupe advantages on the ground, mainly that it will be able to land on pods much smaller than those of its competitors. “We can land eight LEOs in the footprint of one Joby [a rival air taxi],” says Bitar.
Bitar hopes the initial rollout will focus on the LEO being used for fire rescue, exploration, and medevac options. Eventually, he hopes to get the full certification for the LEO to be a fully certified aircraft. But they aren’t quite there yet, the next step would be to build a dedicated subscale wind tunnel for some dynamic testing.