Toyota Files For A Patent That Could Let Priuses Plummet Out Of The Sky

Illustration for article titled Toyota Files For A Patent That Could Let Priuses Plummet Out Of The Sky

Patent number US20150246720 was published yesterday, from Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America. It’s a design for a wing system for a potential flying car. And not just any wing system — it’s a stacking one that looks like an 1898 flying machine contraption. Go home, Toyota, you’re drunk.


Yes, it seems the engineering staff of Toyota has been murdered by time-traveling, be-goggled Victorian eccentric tinkerers, and now they’re applying for patents. Because it’s not enough to just believe in the not-gonna-happen inanity of the flying car, but to really sell it, we need flying cars with stacks and stacks of stubby wings, rising ladder-like from our car roofs.

The system described in the patent has some novel ideas, and also some vast unanswered questions. The wings themselves use an interesting little rotating cam-like thing to deform and reform the bottom of the wing, changing the wing’s profile to go from flight-ready to a collapsed, stackable shape.

Illustration for article titled Toyota Files For A Patent That Could Let Priuses Plummet Out Of The Sky

It’s not just one wing shown here, though. On the roof of the car, the patent drawings show a quadruple-wing setup that can be deployed in varying amounts to, I suppose, increase or decrease the amount of lift generated. More wings=more lift.

The patent is deliberately vague about propulsion or other details, which makes sense, since the patent is focused on the wing design, though you’d think it wouldn’t have killed them to show, you know, the front or back of the car.

We only get a 2D side view here — how wide are these wings? Are they just the width of the roof? are there any side wings or a tail provided for at all? Wouldn’t you need something wider than a few feet to make this work?

Illustration for article titled Toyota Files For A Patent That Could Let Priuses Plummet Out Of The Sky

Maybe I’m being a close-minded jackass, but it looks like Toyota has a severe leak of goofy gas in their engineering department. I’m all for it. I’m hoping in the next few weeks Toyota will release drawings of their next-gen Prius with its standard diamond-tipped boring device (making the car a boring device in two distinct ways!) that allows it to penetrate the hollow crust of the earth and drive on the vast inner-earth network of roads, courtesy of his Majesty, The Great And Terrible Mole King.


All hail the Mole King.

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Obfuscatio: philosopher at large

Alright, Timmy. Let’s run the numbers, shall we?

Cessna 152: 1,081lb empty, 110hp, 160sq.ft. of wing.

Prius: 3,042lb curb weight, 134hp, 106.3in wheel base. (Bear with me.)

Assuming the diagram is roughly to scale, the wing chord is about 2/3 to 3/4 of the wheel base. Let’s middle it at 70%, yielding 6.2ft of chord. 4 wings ups that to 24.8 ft. Divide that into the 160sq.ft. on the Cessna... 6.45ft wingspan. Sounds good, except that pesky curb weight is almost triple the Cessna’s empty weight. This does not bode well. Triple the weight implies triple the supporting wing area - 19.35ft. Stacked wings are not as efficient, due to the airflow over a lower wing affecting the airflow under an upper one. Four wings have eight wingtips with their associated tip drag and induced vortices, each interfering with at least one other. We’ll have to add some wingspan to compensate - another wing’s worth should do, so that’s 24.2ft. That’s already 72% of the Cessna’s 33’4” wingspan. Dare I speculate that it still won’t be wide enough.

Never mind that you’re going to have to substantially increase the Prius’s power just to sustain flight, I highly doubt anyone’s going to be too comfortable with the idea of your wingspan covering 2 1/2 lanes of roadway while tootling around the neighborhood on your way to the runway.

P.S. There’s a very good reason why rudders and elevators are hung way, way down at the end of the fuselage. Yaw and pitch control on an aircraft this short are going to be... touchy. Don’t be reaching into the back seat or glove box during flight, m’kay?