24th June 2024

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Business Industry and Financial

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, No, Subaru Now Has A Flying Car!

You could be excused for thinking that Subaru unveiled a real-life UFO at last month’s Japan Mobility Show.

Suspended in mid-air above Subaru’s electric Sport Mobility Concept car was a strange-looking half-drone, half-hovercraft resembling contraption called the ‘Air Mobility Concept.’ And it certainly raised eyebrows as Subaru took license with the newly renamed ‘Mobility Show’ (which used to be the Tokyo Motor Show) to offer a different form of mobility to that normally displayed — this time flying mobility.

In fact, there are very few carmakers today who can display a new car concept alongside a flying car and get away with it. Honda, with its HondaJet is one. But now, in 2023, Subaru is the second Japanese carmaker to reveal a futuristic aircraft on the same stage as a next-generation electric concept car.

Then again, when you go back and look at Subaru’s history, the Air Mobility Concept flying car is not so far-fetched. To be honest, I’m not sure why they didn’t make one sooner because the company started out making aircraft. Tracing its roots back to 1915 when it began life as the Aircraft Research Laboratory, the firm changed its name to Nakajima Aircraft Company in 1932 and proceeded to make aircraft for Japan during WWII.

In 1953, the company was reorganized under the name Fuji Heavy Industries when it started to make automobiles. Then finally in 2017, the car-producing division switched its name to Subaru, building its vehicles in Japan and Indiana. The Group’s aerospace division of course still makes airplane parts for companies like Boeing and helicopters under contract for Bell.

So what was hovering above Subaru’s stand in Tokyo recently? Seemingly inspired by Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder ground transport vehicle from Star Wars, the swoopy, goofy-named ‘Air Mobility concept’ aircraft features six rotor blades surrounding a small twin-seat cockpit. One Subaru source did confirm that the vehicle was fully electric and could take off and land in confined spaces reasonably easily. As for further details on the powertrain, range and flying time, the brand was scarce on specifics.

However, if we look at another Japanese flying car maker SkyDrive, who plan to start limited operations in 2026, current flying car battery life allows a small one or two-manned aircraft to stay airborne for up to 30 minutes, travel around 7 to 8 miles and cruise at up to 60 mph.

Subaru goes out of its way however to stress that this aircraft is strictly a concept for now, but does add that engineers from its aerospace and automotive divisions are collaborating on developing a working prototype, even showing footage at the show of a blue, unmanned test vehicle flying at low altitude. With legislation in the works in Japan, and several other countries right now to allow ‘flying cars’ to start operations—in limited areas—by 2026, Subaru’s airborne concept might be seen in skies near you sooner than later.