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|Role||Flying car (aircraft)|
|It has been suggested that Paul Moller and Moller M200G Volantor be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since April 2012.|
|Role||Flying car (aircraft)|
The craft said to be currently under development, the M400, is purported to ultimately transport four people; single-seat up to six-seat variations are also planned. It is described as a car since it is aimed at being a popular means of transport for anyone who can drive, incorporating automated flight controls, with the driver only inputting direction and speed required.
After forty years and $100,000,000 in expenditure the Skycar demonstrated limited tethered hovering capability in 2003. No subsequent testing has occurred, although public demonstrations have been announced and then cancelled. It has been extensively marketed for pre-order sale since the 1990s as Moller attempted to raise more money for 'development' but fifty years on is often cited as a real world example of physical product vaporware.
In April 2009, the National Post characterized the Moller M400 Skycar as a 'failure', and described the Moller company as "no longer believable enough to gain investors". On May 18, 2009, Dr. Moller has filed for personal protection under the Chapter 11 reorganization provisions of the federal bankruptcy law and it is unknown how this will impact the fate of his ideas; Moller International itself did not file for bankruptcy but reduced operations.
A Skycar is not piloted like a traditional fixed wing airplane, and has only two hand-operated controls, which the pilot uses to inform the computer control system of the desired flight maneuvers. The Skycar's ducted fans deflect air vertically for takeoff and horizontally for forward flight. The ducted fans also encase the propellers, which prevents bystanders from being exposed to moving blades as well as improving aerodynamic efficiency at low speeds.
The engines to be used are being developed by a separate Moller company called Freedom Motors. They are Wankel engines they call "Rotapower" which have a direct drive to a propulsion fan. Each fan is contained in Kevlar-lined housings with intake screens to provide protection to bystanders. The Skycar has four engine nacelles, each with two computer-controlled Rotapower engines. All eight engines operate independently and, as demonstrated in during a tethered flight, will allow for a vertical controlled landing should any one fail.
Despite announcements since 2001 the Rotapower engine has never been produced as a product. In 2009, Moller claimed to have a backlog of 900,000 orders for the engine, but those claimed units were never manufactured.
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The only flight demonstrations have been hover tests performed in 2003 by a Skycar prototype that for insurance reasons was tethered to a crane. The ongoing failure of the Moller company to actually fly an M400 led the National Post to characterize the Skycar as a 'failure'.
Although the physics behind the Skycar design is rarely criticized, the management of the company and the inability to bring a product to market draws the most ire from commentators.
In October 2006, Moller attempted to auction the only prototype of its M200X model on eBay. It failed to sell. The highest bid was $3,000,100; Moller reported at the annual meeting of stockholders on October 21, 2006 in Davis, California, that the reserve price had been $3,500,000. A previous attempt in 2003 to sell the M400 via eBay was also unsuccessful.
In 2003, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Moller for civil fraud (Securities And Exchange Commission v. Moller International, Inc., and Paul S. Moller, Defendants) in connection with the sale of unregistered stock, and for making unsubstantiated claims about the performance of the Skycar, even though Moller's statements had passed the review and received "cleared comments" from the SEC during the filing and public information phase prior to being listed as a publicly traded company. Without admitting any wrongdoing, Moller agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the matter quickly so as not to delay the initial public offering of the stock. In the words of the SEC complaint, "As of late 2002, MI's approximately 40 years' [sic] of development has resulted in a prototype Skycar capable of hovering about fifteen feet above the ground." The shareholders of Moller International banded together to form a group known as "Shareholders of Moller International ("SoMI"),
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in January 2013 between Moller International and a US-China and e-business network agreeing to the goal of developing production for Moller Skycars in the United States and the People's Republic of China.
On November 5, 2013 Moller kicked off a crowdfunding campaign with an official announcement on the Happening Now program on Fox News Channel in the US. He subsequently followed the broadcast announcement with a press release and a radio-broadcast announcement on the Coast to Coast AM radio program with host John B. Wells interviewing Moller for 2 hours.
The campaign was formulated to raise money to further develop the systems to fly the Skycar without a tether and with a pilot on-board - something that Moller had yet to accomplish with the flights that had been conducted to date with the M400X prototype vehicle. Moller launched a donation-only crowdfunding campaign - not subject to SEC scrutiny - and promised to provide gifts and other items to donors, included a ride in the M400X as the top gift of the campaign. The Moller crowdfunding campaign ended on January 4, 2014 and raised a total of US$29,429.00 from 188 funders, far short of its $950,000 goal.