Musk hints at 'space car'
And no, he hasn't gone completely mad. Read on…
Head of Tesla Elon Musk, famous for his freewheeling thinking on the future of transport, has told DriveTribe that he is working in secret on a type of flying car that could make personal global travel a possibility and demolish the business model of airlines.
‘Most flying car concepts are based on airplanes,’ said the jazz fag enthusiast. ‘But that’s backward thinking. Ours is based on a space ship.’
In Musk’s future, owners of the yet-unnamed space Tesla – roughly the size of a Model X - would be blasted into a sub-orbital trajectory where speeds of up to Mach 7 would be possible, owing to an almost complete absence of air resistance. It opens the possibility of ‘driving’ from London to Sydney in a little over two hours.
‘We are the right people to do this,’ he said. ‘We build cars, we build spacecraft. Henry Ford thought the car and the airplane would be combined, we think it’s the car and the rocket.’
The ‘sub orbital’ idea has been proposed before, notable by British Aerospace in the early 80s. But their ‘Hotol’ (Horizontal Take-Off and Landing) concept was an airliner seating several hundred people, and operating to a schedule.
‘The future of transport is personal,’ says Musk. ‘It always has been. Our concept would make the longest journeys currently possible on earth simple day trips for regular car owners.’
The launch is the most challenging part of Musk’s vision, as it would require owners to report to a local site where their cars would be mated to reusable rocket-powered ‘sleds’. ‘But we’re talking small ones,’ Musk emphasises. ‘We’re only sending a car up, and it doesn’t have to go into proper orbit. It’s not as hard as it sounds.’
The landing would be relatively easy. Experience with SpaceX and rockets that can land themselves would be applied to the car. ‘It would touch down autonomously – we know about that as well – even on a high street or in a parking lot. Then you would just drive away, normally,’ says Musk.
There is no indication yet of how much such a car would cost, apart from Musk’s assertion that it would be ‘not as much as you think.’ There would be a hefty fee for a sub-orbital launch but, as Musk points out, ‘We pay a fortune once or twice a year to fly our families somewhere on holiday. Spend that on a launch instead and enjoy your own car when you arrive.’
We suspect it’s all some way off, but we like the idea of registering a car as ‘spacecraft’.