The Carplane® is a bi-modal air/road convergence vehicle, currently under construction at the Research Airport in Braunschweig, Germany.
Its primary market is the BRICS countries where inadequate road infrastructure and traffic congestion impede individual transport. Just like emerging economies solved their communications challenges by installing cheap transmission masts (rather than costly land-lines), the Carplane® uses easily-cleared, short airstrips to solves personal transport challenges (rather than costly road networks which take years to build and require tearing up the landscape).
In road-mode, the Carplane® employs electric drive to reach the nearest airstrip, consuming neither fuel nor emitting noise or fumes. Takeoff and landing are electric to limit noise. When flying cross-country and on longer road trips, a separate, 157hp combustion engine acts as a primary power source and range-extender respectively.
The combustion engine conforms to strict “EURO-5” emissions standards which take effect in 2014. Due to its light weight, carbon-fiber construction and streamlined shape, the Carplane®’s energy-efficiency in both modes is superior to that of conventional vehicles. Furthermore, in air-mode it beelines to its destination and experiences no traffic jams, again improving relative efficiency. These features also make it attractive for use in industrial countries.
Carplane® GmbH took a different approach to previous efforts at solving this problem. What currently happens every weekend when glider pilots tow their planes to the next airstrip and attach their wings, was simply combined into one vehicle and the wing-mounting was automated. Twin-fuselages were a necessary design feature to enable achievement of this goal.
The rationale of twin fuselages is two-fold:
Firstly, the hulls provide aerodynamic encasement of four large tires (rather than the three, small wheels aircraft usually have). This provides stability in road-mode without the incurrment of excessive drag in air-mode. (Dragwise, the vehicle is like two gliders side-by-side.)
Secondly, to enable use by low-experience, owner-pilots, large wings of at least 5m² each are necessary. But they need to be stored on a vehicle a). small enough to fit in a standard-size garage and b). able to be driven at high speed. By storing the wings between the hulls at a forward inclination, the effects of side-winds and weather-cocking are negated and their lift is converted to downforce. These technical solutions endow the Carplane® with good performance, both as a road vehicle and as an aircraft.