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Stop listening to this idiot

Paul Moller is a failure; stop humoring him

2005.10.16 — Culture | Business | Technology | by Derek Jensen

Moller Skycar

Moller SkyHoax. [source]

For years, Paul Moller has been trying to build a skycar for America. Since 1962, actually. It's been a kind of weird national daydream for a long time, perhaps because our traffic is just bad enough for us to dream of a way out of it but not bad enough to make us build, say, a widespread mass transit system. Moller has the answer tho, and all he ever needs is a couple more million dollars... and a couple more years.

He has a hell of a prototype. Oh yeah, a sweet cherry hotrod that's half airplane, half Star Wars, half 34 Ford. Wait, that's three halves. Yeah, Moller's math never adds up.

Every year, there's a big Popular Science or ABC or USA Today or some other "technology review" that put's Moller's latest airbrushed beauty front and center. This year, it's Neiman Marcus. That's right. Neiman Marcus is pretending to offer Moller Skycars in its famous crazy-ass-rich-dude catalog. It's just a couple of million bucks and you have to, you know, wait for delivery.

...a sweet cherry hotrod that's half airplane, half Star Wars, half 34 Ford. Wait, that's three halves. Yeah, Moller's math never adds up.

I love technology, and I have a soft spot for aircraft in particular, but there's so much that's so wrong with Moller's ideas that they border on fraud (in 2003, he was fined $50,000 for selling shares in what is essentially a fantasy). The skycar is a bit like the Segway, which is megacool, but basically a $5,000 electric scooter. You could have been buying electric and small-engine scooters for years but you weren't, were you? No. Because they're as big a pain in the ass as bicycles and motorcycles but without the exercise of bikes or the power of cycles.

Moller Skycar

Neiman Marcus's version of the Moller SkyHoax. [source]

What are you going to do with a skycar? Will you be able to park it in the garage, launch it from your driveway, and land it in a parking lot? Hell no. It will be just like owning an airplane and subject to all the same pain in the ass rules of cost, government regulation, and maintenance headaches as regular airplanes.

The only real difference is that it doesn't work. Moller has done a few tethered test flights that show that the thing has just enough power to get it off the ground, but Igor Sikorsky did that in 1930.

And it won't work. Moller is trying to use ducted fans instead of propellers on the theory that ducted fans are less intimidating, I guess, than an open prop. But look at his design. Four engines. How would you like to maintain a car that had four engines? Could even Honda or Toyota build a four-engine car that didn't break down approximately four times as often as a one-engine car?

What value would this thing have? Well, if you're rich and you have enough land to build a short airstrip on both your summer and winter estates, it would be pretty cool to fire up this baby and zip down the coast for the weekend. It would have to go 200-300 mph to be worth the trouble. Personal jets travel at upwards of 450 mph. Far simpler gyroplanes can cruise at 80 mph (for $32,000) to 130 mph (for $750,000), and take off and land almost vertically, but you don't see people flocking to them.

And David Letterman can afford a helicopter to get to work in traffic-clogged Manhattan, but he doesn't have one. It's too impractical. And he could have a helipad in his back yard and get one put on the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater if he tried hard enough. Not gonna happen.

Except in John Moller's crazy-ass-rich-dude dreams.


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