“We are very lucky,” Detlev von Platen told me during our interview at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. “What is going to happen in the the next couple of years is absolutely fantastic.” Von Platen is a Porsche board member and is responsible for the company’s sales and marketing divisions globally. In other words: Of all the people in Geneva pontificating about the future of transportation, Detlev von Platen knows what’s actually going to move his corner of the industry.
While autonomous cars and electric cars are increasingly tired topics, the concept of flying cars still excites — despite the term “flying car” itself being slang for something that will never happen. Porsche, though, is now seriously exploring the third dimension and changing up the terminology somewhat, creating what von Platen calls a “flying sports car.”
“It’s very early stage at the moment, but this could be a development which I believe personally would very well fit to Porsche. We looked around and we didn’t see it so we decided to make it ourselves.”
It’s that notion of not just being a flying car, but being a flying sports car that makes this an interesting proposition. In particular, how do you create a flying machine that’s safe enough for anyone to control and yet engaging enough to fit within people’s expectations of Porsche?
“Imagine having this kind of object being able to fly on its own completely from A to B,” said von Platen, “but also enabling the passenger or pilot to take control for a certain amount of time, if it stays within its [performance] envelope. This could be a Porsche.”
The full autonomy aspect is incredibly important, as licensing for this kind of vehicle itself could be prohibitively difficult and expensive. Even the FAA’s Sport license, the lowest barrier of entry, will take a couple weeks of training, costing thousands of dollars. Full autonomy could remove most if not all of that overhead, but adding in the fun bits will likely require some new license classification.
Imagine having this kind of object being able to fly on its own completely from A to B.
Detlev von Platen
While making the thing enjoyable will be crucial to the brand, there’s also a hugely practical application here: Traffic.
“Urban environments are jam-packed,” Klaus Zellmer, Porsche’s North American President and CEO told me. “We need to find answers to that problem, and one answer is the third dimension.”
The other answers? More ride-sharing, more car-sharing and new ownership models are also in the mix, but again, while these are important and relevant topics, they don’t exactly have the sex appeal of a flying car.
But don’t get too excited, because Porsche still lacks the answer to one very crucial question: “When?” Von Platen confirmed that the company is actively working on the project, but he repeatedly said such work is at “a very early stage.”
Zellmer did at least indicate that work on the flying sports car is part of the company’s Strategy 2025, a project dedicated to “shaping the future of the sports car.” That doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily be zipping through the skies in seven years time, but it does at least give us some semblance of a date to dream about.
Geneva Motor Show 2018